Young Stars to be blooded against the Scots again

In 2000, against Scotland, Warren Gatland sent out for their 6 Nations debuts callow youths John Hayes, Simon Easterby, Peter Stringer, Ronan O’Gara and Shane Horgan. Eighty minutes of blood and thunder and sixty six points later Ireland were lauding a twenty two point win (44-22). Although we didn’t know it at the time, this match was the beginning of some of the most incredible Irish International rugby careers ever; Hayes 107 caps, 21 finger-tip stretching tries by Shane Horgan, Stringer 98 caps and of course O’Gara, 1083 test points, fourth in the all-time standings, 128 international caps bettered only by George Gregan, leading both caps 63 and points 557 in the “International Championship” (the 5/6Nations to you and me).

And so to Sunday and again against the Scots Irish rugby will be testing the mettle of bright young stars. If Paddy Jackson and Luke Marshall replicate their provincial form, come Sunday evening might we be saying Ronan and Gordon who? Just think about that for a second, inside one game of rugby we might be witnessing the end of Ronan O’Gara and Gordon D’Arcy’s international careers. Two men who have been as permanent as Mars and Mercury in Irish rugby’s firmament might be no more.

Eclipsed.

Closer to the sweat and toil that actually wins matches, Tom Court sneaks in ahead of Dave “Killer” Kilcoyne to attack Geoff Cross from the loosehead side of an Irish scrum that so far in this tournament has been quietly effective against the highly reputed Welsh and English. If Court can match the suspended Healy’s scrummaging, Jackson and Marshall should get some quality front foot-ball. My one reservation about Court ahead of Kilcoyne (putting my Munster preference to one side) is that neither Court nor Ross are as dynamic as Healy and Best (the leading hooker in Lions reckoning so far this season) in the loose. Whilst it is in the tight that props earn their corn, if Ireland is to tie down the Scottish breakaways, a greater ball carrying presence from the front row around the fringes would be invaluable. Kilcoyne may yet get a decisive word in this game.

Behind the broad backs and hips of Court, Best and Ross slot the two Denises (to the uninitiated, Donnacha /Donncha is Irish for Denis). In the absence of Paul O’Connell for both Ireland and Munster, Donnacha Ryan is finally standing out as the Grim Reaper every pack needs. An enforcer par excellence, Ryan is also managing the lineout to great effect. Whilst McCarthy will be missed, O’Callaghan is hardly a poor replacement and his appetite for work appears undiminished by time. If he can put in a big shift this Sunday, Richie Gray may be penned in closer to the grunts than out in the green acreage where he is so destructive.

Having been bested by England’s backrow, possibly feeling the effect of the herculean effort against the Welsh a week earlier; Kidney sends out O’Mahony, O’Brien and Heaslip again. If they can replicate the form, intensity and skill of the opening weekend, not even Finlay Calder and the Great White Shark could live with them. Should they fail to deliver, watch out for Ian Henderson, a monster in the proudest tradition of Ulster rugby hard men. If he can’t find any trees to tear up, evacuate a stand, this man is fierce.

Murray, Jackson and Marshall represents a fairly “green” set of hands in the early stages of any back play, but these lads have a World Cup, a tour of New Zealand and a Heineken Cup Final between them. They won’t be fazed by the occasion, especially with the reassuring presence of O’Driscoll outside them. Kearney, Gilroy and Earls (finally in his best position on the wing) complete an Ireland XV that needs a win to keep in touch with the championship.

Is there any value in looking at who is missing? No, (although for the record it is D’Arcy, Zebo, Sexton, McCarthy, Healy, O’Connell, Bowe, Henry and Ferris) the fifteen that takes the field on Sunday has the power, savvy and wherewithal to beat a Scottish side that hasn’t won back to back 6Nations games since 2001.

Glasgow Warriors are flying in the RaboDirect PRO 12 this season, hence their preponderance in the national side. Should they perform as they did against Italy there might not be enough whiskey in Edinburgh to assuage any Irish grief.

A final observation: you might see that Paddy Jackson has a hint of russet to his hair; well the last Irish out half with a similar complexion was a certain Olly Campbell who managed, amongst other things, Ireland’s last series win in Australia. Notice has been served.

Eamonn Keane writes Hoarse Roar from the Sidelines, you can read more at www.eamorugby.com or on twitter @eamorugby

Created using the combined powers of the Scottish Rugby Blog team.

7 comments on “Young Stars to be blooded against the Scots again

  1. Eoin on

    Great stuff, Eamonn, interesting preview from an Irish perspective – thanks.

    PS I thought Duncan would be the anglicised version of Donnacha/Donncha?

  2. Phoenix on

    I must say I am slightly apprehensive about this game now. When the list of injuries became apparent and ROG was widely predicted to start I was feeling very confident. Now, however, the game has the same feel to the England game last year where Scotland (rightly or wrongly) may be considered to be favourites going in and we do not generally deal with that tag to well.

    These young Irish guys could really step up in the same way Robshaw/Barritt did for England or Hogg did for us last year. My preferred tactic? Early kick off straight to Jackson and have three of our biggest brutes smash him on his first touch of the ball in International rugby (fairly of course).

    Can we get Jason White into the squad for the first 5 minutes and then ‘tactically’ sub him off?!

    • Heatzillionaire on

      No need to recall Jason White Phoenix. I am sure GIRTH will be out to prove a point! Lets hope it does not end in an unconcious sin binning like his debut though! Go get ’em #GIRTH

  3. FF on

    I’m a little surprised the Irish are so bullish ahead of this match – Liam Toland in the Irish Times was particularly scathing about Scotland’s chances and our previous win against Italy (he appears to think Italy were the better side in that match)

    Ireland have many fine players and better strength in depth than Scotland, but their performance last week was inept – tactically naive, littered with unforced errors and showing a host of senior players failing to live up to their reputations (Heaslip and Kearney were particularly poor). Whilst I think they remain favourites, if I was Irish I would be extremely worried about this game. Better Irish sides have only scraped through against worse Scottish ones in the last few games at Murrayfield and Scotland have finally cracked their try-scoring hoo-doo.

    I think it is going to be close and tense, with plenty of mistakes by both sides but also a fair number of tries. Scotland to shade it against an over-confident and underwhelming Ireland.

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