THE NEWS ABOUT Paul O’Connell’s injury ruling him out of the Springbok clash comes late in the piece but it is no less devastating for Ireland.
The second-row was the clear favourite to lead the Irish out at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday but another pivotal figure has succumbed to the punishing schedule of modern rugby.
All the talk, perhaps in anticipation of O’Connell’s exit, has been about how many leaders Ireland have in the team.
Not for the first time, the talk will either prove true or hollow when action unfolds on the pitch.
Amid the name-dropping of Heaslip, Sexton, D’Arcy and even Bowe this week, most of the questions posed to Eoin Reddan have been about Ruan Pienaar, Conor Murray and Richardt Strauss.
While Strauss ‘has a high work-rate and intensity’ and Pienaar ‘has a massive kicking game’, captaincy chat has not appeared on Reddan’s radar.
The ongoing battle
The Limerick native has won four Heineken Cups [one with London Wasps], starred in wins over England and Australia last year and played 45 times for his country.
The unlikelihood of a Reddan captaincy appears in the stark statistics. He has only started 21 times at scrum-half for Ireland and appears, despite better club form, to be losing the battle for Declan Kidney’s favour.
The perception is that, when bruising packs like New Zealand, Italy and South Africa come to town, Murray’s sturdier defence wins him the nine jersey.
Reddan told TheScore.ie, ”My defensive game doesn’t suffer from week to week so of course [the talk of weaknesses] does annoy me. Declan [Kidney] is making his mind up on Thursday and you get on with whatever job you’re given. You might have a job to do off the bench so you do it.
I don’t really mind what other people are saying, the press or whatever, the only thing I care about is what the coaches think because they’re the one making the decisions.
“Whatever decisions are made, you just get on with it but you wouldn’t be lacking in anything if I was in that department.”
It’ll be a tough game. Both sides have things that they want to put right and hopefully we’ll be the ones to do that. We’ve worked on a lot of things since the last game against New Zealand.
Having filled more binders with tactical errors than Mitt Romney had of Massachusetts women, Ireland’s players are focused on securing their ranking positions ahead of the World Cup draw.
“There’s no point in burying our head in the sand and saying it doesn’t matter,” said Reddan. “It does.”