Time right to experiment
Declan Kidney will tomorrow announce his team for Sunday’s crunch clash with the Scots, which will show only minimal change if the drip-feed from management is to be believed.
With Stephen Ferris again ruled out, the back-row should remain the same as that against the French, leaving Sean O'Brien and David Wallace on either side of Jamie Heaslip.
Donncha O'Callaghan and Paul O'Connell will be in the second-row and it will be same front-row, with Kidney passing up the opportunity to give Sean Cronin a starting run at hooker.
That would make for an unchanged pack. It provides an easier build-up to facing down the Scots, but in the wider picture of New Zealand 2011 it represents an opportunity missed.
I have never believed in change for change’s sake but where opportunity knocks with minimal risk, it is a punt well worth taking.
In the backline, Tommy Bowe should return on the wing, leaving Luke Fitzgerald and Keith Earls to make up the back three. I would advocate Andrew Trimble for the left but have no issue with Earls' selection, other than the positives of giving the Ulsterman – like Cronin – a chance at match involvement from the off.
I do not share the view, despite the obvious missed tackle against the French, that Gordon D'Arcy played badly in that game. Paddy Wallace will come into the frame but D'Arcy still in situ alongside Brian O'Driscoll would be thecall for me.
That leaves the main focus of interest at half-back, where Tomas O'Leary, despite his well-taken try against France, has looked off-colour in the two outings to date.
Here we have a dilemma – four competent scrum-halves but not one definitively seizing the initiative.
I expect it to be Eoin Reddan alongside Jonathan Sexton and, again while I have no problem with that, like Cronin and Trimble, I believe it’s the right time to trust in Ronan O'Gara from the start.