Same Mistakes, Failure Awaits – Six Nations Preview Week Three
Let this be said once and never discussed, I completely agree with Declan Kidney’s chosen team. Not because I feel he has matched Italy player for player or fielded the most obvious and sensible team, no no, simply because you cannot pick 22 players for a match then drop them when said match did not go ahead. Were he to have dropped any of the 22 he chose for the trip to Stade de Farce he would have left them with far too many lingering doubts. Its an unfortunate truth, but truth it is. That being said, I still have the same reservations about his chosen 22 as I had in the first place; that it is horribly conservative, that off form players are getting the nod over their in form counterparts and as an add-on this week, it is the absolute worst team to field when now staring at four games in four weeks.
With the above in mind then, how do Ireland’s chances against the Azzurri look? Well, not great to be honest. It will be a win most likely, but an extremely ugly one like that of last year’s Six Nations. This will be of zero benefit to the team. What they need to do is get out on the field and turn in a performance that catches the eye, one with flourish and inventiveness. A win over Italy will not generate momentum but an impressive win will. As for Italy’s chances, they have of course lost one of their biggest weapons in the form of Castrogiovanni and with an inexperienced, at international level, prop Cittadini filling his shoes the Irish scrum should be able to front up nicely. The replacement of Burton with Botes, again uncapped internationally, should be interesting however. Italy is the kind of team where new caps provide an excitement as the team is going through a transitional phase, much like Ireland did some time ago, where just turning up and not losing too badly is no longer the mantra. New caps abolish the hang ups of older players and Cittadini then should be worth watching very closely. As for Ireland, the 22 chosen may be close to the best we can field alright, but half of the team is comprised of players who are aware that they can, if they want, beat Italy easily enough at home. Why not let the newer caps get a taste for that? As tired as this argument is becoming, there is then the far more crucial reason to play fresh faces this Saturday, rest. Most will argue that Kidney’s main 22 need gametime but on the other hand they also may not benefit all that much from playing the bruiser that is Italy then jetting off to, hopefully this time, play France. It’ll be dogged, it’ll be rough, but Ireland win
Next up is Wales and England with no teams announced at the time of writing. Regardless of team selection however, it cannot be seen how England could possibly cause an upset. They have of course won two from two now but both matches were won primarily due to the mistakes of their opposition, the fact that both matches included a block down try is testament to this. What is different however is that England are coming home and Twickers is not exactly an easy place to travel to and the English crowd will be behind their team in a big way as two from two is good enough for them, regardless of the style in which it was achieved. This one may actually wind up being tougher to call than most think it is, and oh how the tournament would open up all over again were Wales to be beaten but I have to say Wales win
And finally, the new France VS Italy fixture, Les Bleus take on the Bonnie Scots. Oh Scotland, what has gone wrong? The Scottish performance against Wales was, for want of a better word, cringe worthy. They can recover, of course they can as they have many times before, but there is no logical explanation as to how it has got so bad to begin with. Robinson has one last chance to show signs of a gameplan here and he seems to be somewhat on the right track with the inclusion of Stuart Hogg, just about the only impressive part of Scotland’s play two weeks ago, and Morrison making a return. Both are players on opposite ends of the experience scale but both can provide a bit of a spark, one that is much needed with the departure of two figureheads in the last six months in the shape of Parks and Patterson. Ah but France, well Saint André is no fool and, being in a completely different situation to Kidney, has fielded the very same team as he had prepared to play Ireland. The result will be better for him however than for Ireland as Scotland are now wounded and so should be expected to put up a good fight but with some deflation added in to take the edge off. Essentially, Saint André will get a warm up for Ireland without too much risk of his players getting knocked out of commission before March. This is most definitely not likely to be the weekend that Scotland rediscover their mojo and do so with a resounding win over France but what can be expected is that they won’t yield lightly and that France, though they will more than likely win comfortably in the end, will have to work hard enough initially to do so. France win
Just a quick note then to wrap up on the departure of Tony McGahan from Munster. It has been reported that McGahan will depart Munster at the end of this season and join the Wallabies as defence coach. Good news all round really as, though he has done well so far this year to have Munster in the knock outs unbeaten, it is time for a change in the squad, a fresh perspective and hopefully one of the rumoured Eddie O’Sullivan, Conor O’Shea or Michael Bradley will secure the job and be the ones to bring about this change. O’Sullivan would be great news in fact as recently he has felt free to voice his opinions of the IRFU and if he were to get the job, maybe he could be the one to start the right kind of protests from within. These are exciting times for Munster Rugby.