Sunday 25 September 2016

George Hook: Joe Schmidt needs to start Ian Madigan and Garry Ringrose against England

Published 14/02/2016 | 09:42

George Hook believes these four players can give Ireland an attacking threat against England
George Hook believes these four players can give Ireland an attacking threat against England

George Hook believes Joe Schmidt must make wholesale changes to the make-up of his back division to pose a serious attacking threat against England at Twickenham in a fortnight's time.

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Ireland could only register three penalties from the boot of Jonathan Sexton in their 10-9 defeat at the Stade de France yesterday.

Despite controlling possession and territory in the opening half, Ireland failed to cross the tryline and rarely threatened to do so.

With the France defence coping with Ireland's ball-carrying, and no off-loading, game, Sexton was forced to resort to garryowens to try and give Ireland a foothold in the French 22.

A Maxime Medard try with 10 minutes remaining gave France a victory they scarcely deserved.

Speaking on Independent.ie, outspoken pundit George Hook called on Schmidt to ring the changes for his side's next Six Nations encounter.

"If there is any credibility left in rugby’s medical professionals, McCarthy cannot play," he said.

"The same decision now faces Schmidt, and this is a real test for him. Schmidt won his first Six Nations because he persuaded- and I believe he made the wrong decision - Brian O’Driscoll to play another year, which meant we won a Championship.

"The following year I think we shared it because we all lost one match. I think he got all the breaks. Now when his luck is running out he hasn’t got a selection to underpin it.

"If he is true to any kind of rugby belief, and I’m not sure he is; he has to put Payne to full-back, Henshaw at inside centre, and Ringrose at outside centre and he has Madigan at out half. There’s nothing to lose now. Madigan, Henshaw, Ringrose, Payne at full back, then you have flair, then you have an attack.

"Can he, in the space of two weeks, change the way Ireland play?

"He has two alternatives now. He either becomes even more conservative, in which he actually says is that we actually don’t pass the ball at all. The problem with kicking is that Madigan, and the weakest chink in his armour has always been kicking from hand.

"There’s only so many times you can knock on the door before you say I have to try something else, but the problem is we don’t have something else.

"Eddie Jones says to himself , 'all I have to do is defend all day and these guys aren’t going to score'.

"I think this could be a very, very bad season for us. Traditionally the even number years are difficult for us because we have France and England away. We could have one point after three games."

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