Monday 5 December 2016

Wallace urges caution in Ireland revolution

Published 03/03/2016 | 02:30

CEO of Gala Retail, Gary Desmond; Former Rugby International and Special Olympics board member, David Wallace and Special Olympics bowling athlete Deirdre Nevin, from Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath with CEO of Special Olympics Ireland Matt English at yesterday’s Special Olympics event in Drogheda (Marc O'Sullivan)
CEO of Gala Retail, Gary Desmond; Former Rugby International and Special Olympics board member, David Wallace and Special Olympics bowling athlete Deirdre Nevin, from Dunshaughlin, Co. Meath with CEO of Special Olympics Ireland Matt English at yesterday’s Special Olympics event in Drogheda (Marc O'Sullivan)

The championship may have been derailed but Munster and Ireland legend David Wallace has warned that attempting too much transition could stall Ireland's recovery.

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Joe Schmidt has managed to effect a measure of transition, albeit much of it was forced by injury, not necessarily personal choice, and the former flanker believes that the coach will not deviate too far from those who have already made breakthroughs this season.

There have been clarion calls for players such as Matt Healy and Garry Ringrose to be included for the dead rubbers against Italy and Scotland, as well as recalls for the likes of Craig Gilroy, but Wallace counsels a measure of caution.

"This is a chance to play some youth and we have started that already in one of the hardest venues to do that, Twickenham," says the Special Olympics board member.

"You have to balance it up a little bit. You can't throw all the young guys in, they need experienced guys in there with them.

Heavy-handed

"You don't want the sense of it being an A game or anything. It is still the Six Nations and you want to treat it respect. So you can't be heavy-handed with that type of approach.

"In fairness to the guys who came in against England, they were picking the cream of the crop from provincial level in terms of form. Stuart McCloskey had been spoken of at the start of the Six Nations.

"Now so has Garry Ringrose so he may get a chance now and he has been in the camp already. If you're making your mark at provincial level, you definitely should get a chance. There may be one or two more.

"Jack O'Donoghue could be one but I would like to see him get a regular slot in the back-row at Munster. He has bags of talent and like them all he is learning. It could be good for him to stay involved and become comfortable with the squad.

"You want to see guys who are comfortable provincially because it is a big fall if it doesn't go wrong.

"Dave Kilcoyne hasn't been given a massive crack of the whip, he offers so much around the field. James Cronin too.

"Does Joe want to bring a couple of guys through or a wholesale change? If he was picking his strongest team, he would go with the players he knows.

"Otherwise, he might have younger players who won't have the preparation done that he likes his players to have. And you don't want players unprepared. So I think it will be based around the players in the squad at the moment."

When Wallace picked up his Irish Independent a fortnight ago and read that the new Irish back-row to face France was potentially the most exciting trio in five years, he couldn't help but smile.

For he had been part of the heralded trio in 2011 - along with Stephen Ferris and Jamie Heaslip - as they upped their preparations for the 2011 World Cup with a warm-up tie against England.

Wallace wouldn't finish the game; the game would finish him.

Although Ireland's back-row adapted in stunning fashion, notably against Australia, Ferris' retirement months later radically altered the complexion of the breakaway unit.

When Schmidt finally got to perm Sean O'Brien and CJ Stander, Wallace's excitement was only brewing when this time O'Brien was scratched.

"I had been really excited about that, I thought they'd complement each other and all challenge each other," he says.

"The game would flow better as well with that symbiosis. It was a real pity. But Josh van der Flier did well - that was a whirlwind introduction, spending almost the entire 40 minutes on your line.

"He was the link between the forwards and backs, he led the tackle count and then you saw that great link with Ultan Dillane late on. He doesn't have the power of Sean O'Brien, he's more like a genuine No 7 of old.

"Tommy O'Donnell is unlucky and I'm sure he's been told what to work on."

Wallace also believes that Anthony Foley should stay on at Munster, particularly as it seems likely that he will be allowed to concentrate on preparing the team if a new director of rugby comes in.

"It's a dogfight but Munster will make the Champions Cup and could make the play-offs as they have a better run-in than their rivals, aside from the interpros," he says.

"Axel is an on-field coach first and foremost. Some clubs have a different structure and I think one with a director of rugby with Axel concentrating on the game would be helpful.

"Trying to manage everything is just too onerous. He needs help; we need to give our coaches the support they need."

Wallace is enthused by his Special Olympics involvement, saying: "It's only when I got involved that I understood the scope of it. It is vast, not just the 10,000 athletes but their families and volunteers and the pride they feel.

"There are so many health benefits from physical and mental well-being. So many people have come out of their shells by getting involved and it's not just about the fraction who can get to the elite level.

"It's like the rugby, it's hard to see the work that goes on in between every four-year cycle. But it's pure sport. And there's no trash talking, which is wonderful."

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