THE ROSS CONUNDRUM
Published 14/01/2012 | 05:00
FOR all the outraged squealing among pundits and provincial supporters regarding the IRFU's overseas policy, the motivation comes into sharp focus when Declan Kidney names his squad for the Six Nations next week, writes HUGH FARRELLY.
There are unquestionably logistical flaws in the plan, but the ultimate goal is to have at least two quality, match-ready Irish-qualified players in each position -- the most critical of which is tight-head prop.
Indeed, the lack of cover for Mike Ross at the World Cup was surely a major instigator behind this move and three and a half months on, the situation has not improved.
If Ross (touch wood) stays fit, Kidney has a quality tight-head; if he were to be ruled out through injury, the options are worryingly thin.
Tom Court is the designated cover but is playing loose-head with Ulster due to the presence of New Zealander John Afoa.
In Munster, Springbok BJ Botha has the slot, John Hayes is retired and while Stephen Archer has made encouraging progress, he is nowhere near ready for international rugby.
After that, we are back to Tony Buckley, who is in and out of the Sale side in the English Premiership and has never managed to truly convince at international level.
Jamie Hagan had definite potential when he was starting regularly with Connacht but is now third-choice tight-head at Leinster behind Ross and Kiwi Nathan White and would represent a gamble if called upon, leaving Connacht's Brett Wilkinson, who can play both sides, as a likely stop-gap.
The IRFU's bold but flawed new departure has split opinion in Irish rugby but 'The Ross Conundrum' is a good place to start when assessing its overall merits.