Keyboard warriors: Rugby bloggers from Wales and Ireland line out for a gchat debate

We called in the finest online rugby writers Ireland and Wales had to offer and boy did they give us their thoughts ahead of Sunday’s big game.

Image: ©INPHO/Billy Stickland

WE ROLLED OUT a packet of digestives and a pot tea and got chatting rugby with Shane Murphy of the Whiff of Cordite blog and “Woodster” from Wales’ own The Coal Face.

Once the milk was poured, we got to chatting rugby. And we didn’t correct the spelling and grammar…

The Score: Right, we’ll start with our overseas guest to get the ball rolling. Wales have won in Dublin just twice since the Six Nations began. Can they make it three this weekend?

The Coal Face: Before our injury list reached crisis point I would have said absolutely.  Now I’m slightly concerned as we’ve lost Gethin Jenkins, Matthew Rees, Alun-Wyn Jones, Luke Charteris and most likely Dan Lydiate, Rhys Priestland and Jamie Roberts.  Any side in the world misses their best players, but a country with a playing pool as small as ours really struggles without them so I would say a tentative yes, but it’s going to be very tough.

The perfect 10?

The Score: Without Priestland, who is most likely to start at 10?

The Coal Face: I think it’s likely to be James Hook.  He was thrust into the 10 shirt in the World Cup and didn’t perform, but has been playing 10 quite a bit for his new club Perpignan, and I think it will probably be him.  Lots of us Welsh fans are pretty uneasy about that, we remember the France and Australia games a little bit too clearly!

Whiff of Cordite: I’d have thought they’ll go with Hook too.

The Coal Face: Personally I’d go with Steve Jones.

Whiff of Cordite: He didn’t cover himself in glory in the france game either! I’d love to see Hook deliver on his immense talent, but not sure if he has what Guy Noves calls ‘The Mental’.

The Coal Face: Haha, that’s a good point, he did make a couple of mistakes, but generally I thought he did well.  He kicked well from hand, and gave us field position which actually resulted in Phillips scoring.  Okay, he’s not as dynamic with ball in hand, but he can organise a game, he is a fantastic distributor, great in defence, and he has been there and done it time and time again.  I don’t want any risks against you boys, you’re too tough as opponents

The Score: Has Wales forgiven Jones for bottling the drop goal chances against France?

The Coal Face: Good question, Sean.  It’s difficult to speak on behalf of the entire nation.  I know for a fact that certain people haven’t, and actually feel that he needs to be put out to pasture now.  However, having rewatched the drop goal fiasco a couple of times, I think it has been overplayed and actually don’t think Steve did a huge amount wrong.

Whiff of Cordite: I think it’s a fair call – not sure Hook is the man for a game in Dublin. He’s been playing 10 but USAP (Perpignan) are something like 12th in the top catorze so I’m not sure how well he’s playing

The Coal Face: Yeah, he’s also playing behind a pack that like to keep the ball – Perpignan are a 10 man rugby team, and that is not the way we like to play the game

Whiff of Cordite: That said I’d go for Hook! and I think gatty will too. Call me naive, but he just has too much talent…

The Coal Face: He does, but we only see it sporadically.  The issue with hook is that he is just as likely to lose you the game by doing something brainless than he is to win you the game by doing something brilliant.

Whiff of Cordite: Agreed totally, it’s the Contepomi fan coming out in me.

Ireland’s Stephen Ferris is tackled by Wales’ Sam Warburton in Wellington.  David Davies/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Deccie’s decisions

The Score: When is Gatland due to name the XV?

The Coal Face: Gatland has delayed the team selection till tomorrow to provide Lydiate, Priestland and Roberts as much time as possible to recover.

The Score: Fair enough, Shane, What do you make of Kidney’s selection?

Whiff of Cordite: To be honest, I wasn’t as down on it as most people. It was dull and predictable, but that’s not the worst in the world. I actually think the Earls call is ultimately the right one.

I have concerns about him there, of course, but nobody else was screaming to be picked. I was annoyed about O’Callaghan getting picked though. At some stage you have to reward a guy who’s playing out of his skin. Ryan just offers more than O’Callaghan, and I’d argue Tuohy too. It’s a real loyalty first, classic Deccie pick.

I was pleased to see Sexton and Murray picked together, and think they need to be given a proper run together and not hooked off after 50 minutes.

I would argue Earls deserves the same too.

The Coal Face: If i was an Irish fan I would have massive concerns about Earls at 13.  would much rather see Tommy Bowe there with Earls on the wing.

The Score: If Roberts is fit, is the Irish midfield in serious trouble?

Whiff of Cordite: Yeah, a lot of people have raised that, and it’s a fair point. But all the alternatives have their own issues. Bowe just hasn’t played there all season. It’s a big ask to throw him straight in.

McFadden isn’t a natural 13 either (more of a hard-yards 12) and it’s a season too early for O’Malley who I think will ultimately end up there
re: Roberts. Any team will struggle to get to Roberts when he’s at his best, but he generally needs a while to work up his best form.

The Coal Face: Yeah I know it’s a biggish ask, but he’s played there a lot for the Ospreys and has the skillset to do it.  As Sean has said, if Roberts is fit then Earls is in for a very long afternoon.  Even if he isn’t, we’ve got a lad called George North too who you might of heard of…

Whiff of Cordite: I think we can handle him, but earls needs to be pin-sharp, he has days when he looks distracted, and that’s when he makes mistakes, slips off tackles George North is a huge threat.


The Coal Face: And that’s the Welsh gameplan in a nutshell I think.  Target the 13 channel, get the ball wide quickly off set piece away from your back row and make the yards against Earls and go again. North and Roberts are ideal for that

Whiff of Cordite: Definitely. Earls has to be ready to be targeted and this guy Beck is exciting.

Andrew Trimble in training this week. Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

The Score: Will the presence of Trimble offer a better defence to North?

Whiff of Cordite: One-on-one, yes. The thing about North is he comes off his wing and will look to batter down the 13 channel so it will have to be a collective effort.

The Coal Face: Exactly.  North goes looking for work which is one of the reasons he is so effective.

Whiff of Cordite: Yep

The Coal Face: I like Trimble though

‘Give the ball to Seanie’

The Score: OK. so we’ve seen where Wales can win. What do Ireland need to do? There’s talk of a new game plan…

Whiff of Cordite: There is now, this to me is much more important than the personnel selected we have to, have to, have to see evidence of a clearly identifiable way of playing Ireland’s attack has looked laboured and dull for the last 24 months there’s no clearly identifiable style to it (like say with Leinster, or Wales for that matter) that’s one reason i’m ok with Earls – we know what he isn’t good at, but we have to remember what he will bring which is lots of gas in midfield – we haven’t had that for years hopefully we will see less ‘one man out’ ‘give the ball to seanie’ stuff and get Sexton to work Earls into the space where he can cause damage.

The Coal Face: Yeah, I would say that was my criticism of Ireland in our World Cup game.

Whiff of Cordite: A better attack with ball in hand is the single most important thing for Ireland.

The Coal Face: The forwards do their job, the backs look completely out of ideas and seem to just be looking for BOD or Kearney to create something out of nothing.

Whiff of Cordite: And just hoping Ferris and O’Brien can smash holes off slow ball.

The Coal Face: Exactly. The main reason why we won at the world cup was we completely nullified the best parts of your team.  You have to find some way to get the best players into the game and use them to create the space, as on their day your back row is one of the best in the world.

Whiff of Cordite: We’ve good defence (notwithstanding earls in midfield), good set piece, it’s all there except for cohesive attack yep, fully agree with that.

The Coal Face: So the question is, how do you stop that happening again?

Whiff of Cordite: Well, the first thing is you pick Sexton because he can come back to his pack with ball in hand if Wales shut off the outside. ROG just got swallowed up but Sexto is happy enough to carry the ball.

The Coal Face: He’s a big boy as well eh?

Whiff of Cordite: The second is you have to generate quick ball you could have Ma’a Nonu, BOD and George North outside but if you can’t get them quick ball it doesn’t matter so we’ll have to be almost feral at the breakdown

The Coal Face: But the trouble is, is that because your forwards go isolated into contact and we have one of the best poachers in the world, its a struggle to get the ball back so it’s slow ball.  I love your back row but i think they need to play more as a unit.

Whiff of Cordite: We don’t have a natural 7 so guys like Jamie, Cian Healy and Ferris and even Dorce all have to make one 7 between them if you get me.

Pic: INPHO/Dan Sheridan

‘The unseen work’

The Coal Face: It’s no good having an amazing ball carrier like O’Brien if you allow him to get isolated, because however good and big he is, someone will bring him down, and if there’s no-one there to clear out, the balls gone.

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Whiff of Cordite: We need to look for more offloads to trailer runners to get away from this first man charges into contact on his own stuff
basically, a bit like Leinster do.

The Coal Face: Yeah, exactly.

Whiff of Cordite: Which is why I’m annoyed about O’Callaghan! Because we need as many ‘handlers’ as we can on the pitch

The Coal Face: Why is he still getting picked?

Whiff of Cordite: Tuohy and Ryan are comfortable handling the ball, doc is afraid of it don’t ask me – ‘the unseen work’

The Coal Face: My money’s on a bit of a scrap between Donncha and Mike Phillips early doors.

Whiff of Cordite: I don’t think anyone would sell you that bet!!

The Coal Face: Haha

Whiff of Cordite: A Tango tussle.

The Coal Face: So where do you think you can target the Welsh?

Whiff of Cordite: Well I think if you look at the names missing from their front five we have to have a cut at the lineout and maybe even the scrum though with Adam Jones there wales should be ok and obviously if James Hook is playing, you need to get in his face.

The Coal Face: Yeah I was going to say.  I think we may well struggle in the lineout, especially with no Charteris, but I think the scrum should hold up ok with the Ospreys front row.

Whiff of Cordite: He can flake out.

The Coal Face: That’s what im worried about!

Whiff of Cordite: Yeah, agreed there. That’s where you want ferris charging up at him get him on the back foot.

The Score: Right lads, it looks like we’re looking forward to the return of international rugby. But we’ll have to wrap this up now I’m afraid and do the talking on the pitch.

Whiff of Cordite:  Great stuff, can’t wait

The Score: Predictions?

Whiff of Cordite: I think home advantage and the Welsh injuries should swing it Ireland’s way.

The Score: And a scoreline?

Whiff of Cordite: Could be a fairly open game, quite high- scoring. maybe 50 points between the sides… 29-21 or something.

The Coal Face: I’m going to go completely oppositional to Shane.  I just don’t think Ireland have the backs to score tries (especially if we can nullify Earls’ threat).  What Ireland can do is grind out a result, and I think they have the best chance of doing that in Dublin so it’s going to be very close.  However, I think wales will just pip it 17-15 with a drop goal from Stephen Jones to atone for the France game.

Whiff of Cordite: Very interesting

The Coal Face: Pob Iwc boys, have a Guinness on me on Sunday!

*for me, i’m not paying!

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About the author:

Sean Farrell

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