Monday 27 March 2017

Opening skirmish provides ideal vehicle to get team back on track

Ireland's first game in the World Cup against the USA is an opportunity for Declan Kidney to be both practical and imaginative in his team selection. He needs to strike the right blend between using players who need game-time, and not using players who don't. Here, Jim Glennon puts forward his starting XV

15 Geordan Murphy

Has had a very lengthy absence from the green jersey and as we saw is in dire need of game-time which is why he should start against the Eagles. At peak of considerable powers he presents an incisive attacking option which has been lacking. Could yet emerge as key component of the overall effort.

14 Tommy Bowe

Undoubtedly our classiest winger, but again in need of game-time to bring himself up to speed in time for the Australians. Like Murphy, will be expected to bring fresh cutting-edge to the backline and an appearance in the centre at some stage is not beyond contemplation either.

13 Brian O'Driscoll

Like so many, and maybe more than most, could do with time on the pitch, particularly in the context of his absence from yesterday's match. Midfield has struggled badly of late, and he is its fulcrum -- if it is to improve, his well-being will be pivotal to that improvement.

12 Gordon D'Arcy

Yet another who needs game-time for fitness reasons, but has been nowhere near top form thus far and Alan Gaffney's attacking strategy needs him to rectify that -- and quickly. The immediate alternative is not exactly awe-inspiring in the context of some of the midfield behemoths currently rampaging through the warm-ups.

11 Keith Earls

Has performed reasonably well thus far and the US game does provide a valuable opportunity for what should be the big-game starting back-three to link up. Indeed they could well turn out to be our most potent attacking unit.

10 Ronan O'Gara

I would go with Jonathan Sexton to start against Australia and Italy, and so I think the USA game presents the ideal opportunity for a run-out for O'Gara, who remains important. He is a steady hand and would offer invaluable experience outside his debutant Munster colleague Conor Murray at scrum-half.

9 Conor Murray

As with the outhalf postition, I see the opening game as an opportunity for Declan Kidney to make the most of his resources. With Reddan to start against Australia, the USA will provide ideal opposition for the rapidly-developing Murray to make his tournament bow, and to gain further confidence and momentum with a view to nailing down the reserve spot.

8 Denis Leamy

If we're to progress to the knockout stages, it's likely that Leamy, and a number of others, won't see too much active combat and, as such, the USA and Russia games will be central to maintaining sharpness.

7. Sean O'Brien

He won't like it, and it's probably unfair on him to be played out of his best position, but this is what happens at this level -- David Wallace's unfortunate absence must be dealt with, and the Tullow man is the best option, despite being more at home on the blindside.

6 Stephen Ferris

O'Brien will have been earmarked for this jersey for the Australia game so I'd give Ferris this opportunity to stake his claim and regain from O'Brien his status as Ireland's most influential ball-carrier; needs as many starting-match-minutes as he can put together too.

5 Leo Cullen

He won't start against either Italy or Australia (barring injury) so, as with Leamy, an opportunity to renew match sharpness while facilitating a valuable rest for either O'Callaghan or O'Connell in advance of the bigger contests ahead.

4 Donncha O'Callaghan

Although ahead of Cullen at the moment in the battle to partner O'Connell the following week, this will provide both protagonists with an opportunity to stake their claim, and Kidney with an invaluable opportunity for a direct comparison.

3 Tony Buckley

Simply because Mike Ross is the most important player in this squad. Bluntly, Buckley doesn't remotely imitate a top-class tighthead but we don't deserve to be in the knockouts if we don't possess a back-up prop capable of doing a job against this opposition.

2 Jerry Flannery

Needs a run of games to rediscover his best form after a couple of years utterly decimated by injury. Should hopefully be in reasonable shape by the time the Wallabies come calling; it will be a big boost for the overall effort if he is.

1 Tom Court

More than capable of doing a job while providing a buffer against over-exposure for Healy, an injury-doubt anyway. Play him against the US and Russia, and give him minimum pitch-time from the bench against the big guns.

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