DECLAN KIDNEY IS looking at, potentially, his last Six Nations. There has been a clear change with his thinking and he is going against usual form by picking players that are playing well.
With the backline he has named, and with Brian O’Driscoll returning, it is an exciting line-up.
Andrew Trimble may have expected to get selected to combat the physicality of the Welsh and it is surprising that Keith Earls missed out. Then again, this is the backline most of us would’ve liked Kidney to pick. Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo are on top form at the moment.
Kidney discovered Donnacha Ryan through injury and he will be a stalwart of this Irish team. It was similar with Mike McCarthy, who got the call because of injury.
It is hard on Chris Henry but Ireland have to go after the Welsh lineout so Peter O’Mahony is in.
Imposing the Irish game
I would still like to see Sean O’Brien at 6 but the main role of the back row this weekend will be to starve the Welsh of the ball.
Whenever we’ve lost against the Welsh it is when they have been allowed to play with a loose, off-the-cuff style. If Ireland can keep play stifled and cut the ball out before it gets to Alex Cuthbert and the lads, they have a chance.
It helps, then, that we have a re-invigorated Gordon D’Arcy and Brian O’Driscoll in the centre to cut the ball off before it gets to the wings. There’s a telepathic know-how between the two of them and, together, they’ve been a dynamic partnership for Ireland and Leinster.
Gordon D’Arcy will be tasked with stopping quick ball from getting to Alex Cuthbert (pictured) and George North. (©INPHO/James Crombie)
The line-up lends itself to Ulster’s kick-chase game that they’ve done so well with this year.
They are very much a team than relying on star individuals – Ruan Pienaar being the exception – and are not built around players that would walk into the Irish team.
Rory Best is easily the best hooker in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment and is a shoe-in for a Lions starting slot. Gilroy has shown his need to attack and is an exciting prospect.
Declan Kidney has certainly thrown everything at.
The changes are refreshing. These lads have no baggage, no history. They’ll want to win every time they put on the green jersey.
Picking a winner
This Six Nations is really, really hard to predict. A win could kick start Ireland’s Six Nations but a loss could spell disaster.
Form previous to the competition doesn’t count for much. We’ve seen Wales sides go from being diabolical to winning Grand Slams.
England are buoyed by beating the All Blacks but France are favourites and deserve to be so. They will be the team to beat.
*Shane Byrne, pictured here with Brian O’Connell and Gerard Connon, played 41 times for Ireland at hooker.
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