Wednesday 17 January 2018

Galwey backs Bull to step into tight spot

John Hayes is in line for a return to the Ireland front row against Samoa on Saturday.
John Hayes is in line for a return to the Ireland front row against Samoa on Saturday.
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

THERE'S a story about an old bull and a young bull and their respective approaches to life. In short, the old bull imparts invaluable wisdom and the knowledge of his years to his enthusiastic friend.

After Ireland's travails in the scrum and out of touch on Saturday, Mick Galwey believes the answer to the team's difficulties may well lie with an old Bull, the "tried and trusted" John Hayes.

With Tony Buckley set to miss the remaining Autumn Internationals through injury, Declan Kidney must look elsewhere for a tight-head option.

Former Munster and Ireland legend Galwey has given the 37-year-old his backing to lock down the scrum and bolster the line-out.

"I know John Hayes has over 100 caps and has been around forever but the last two matches I saw him play for Munster I thought he was exceptional," said Galwey. "Against the All Blacks and Argentina, particularly, you need proven scrummagers.


"Mike Ross has done well for Leinster this year, particularly in scrummaging. It'll be interesting: it's a case of do you want to go with the tried and trusted? There's no reason John Hayes can't go to the World Cup or can't be involved in the Six Nations.

"(Hayes) is known for his line-outs, particularly his defensive line-outs. It's one part of his game but the best man to ask about that is Paul O'Connell, who is on record as saying that he's the best lifter he ever came across. He hasn't lost that and he hasn't lost his appetite, which is important."

Newly appointed Ireland scrum coach Greg Feek has had little time to bed in, but Buckley and the scrum in general struggled against the Springboks.

That's an area for concern, considering the reputations of New Zealand and Argentina in that area, and Ireland took a step backwards on Saturday after a summer tour that suggested they were moving in the right direction. In his role as scrum consultant with Leinster, 10-time-capped All Black Feek will be keenly aware of Ross' abilities.

"There won't be many better props that (Buckley) will come up against than 'The Beast' (Tendai Mtawarira) last Saturday and that was a huge learning process for him," Galwey said, at the launch of Pfizer's online surgery to aid people trying to quit smoking.

"He was in New Zealand in the summer and he has done exceptionally well for Munster this year. Tony Buckley might be caught in one or two scrums in every match but it's his overall impact that he puts into games that is phenomenal."

There are likely to be further changes to Kidney's side, with Ronan O'Gara seemingly edging ahead in his tit-for-tat battle with Jonathan Sexton. Peter Stringer's urgency should also lead to his return as first-choice No 9.

"When Peter and Ronan came on they brought a freshness and enthusiasm to the thing and that was encouraging," said Galwey. "A bench should be there for impact and the two boys came in and made a huge impact and we could have stolen that game in the end.

"It was a learning process for Ireland. The Autumn Internationals are going to be tough with New Zealand, Argentina and Samoa. They'll all be physical and difficult in their own way. It's a big year for Irish rugby with the Six Nations coming up so it's important we get something out of the Autumn Internationals.

"Okay, we can look to the World Cup but I think there is a huge opportunity there in the Six Nations. We have England and France at home, a replica of two years ago when we won the Grand Slam. There's no reason why we can't do that again."

Donncha O'Callaghan cut a frustrated figure after the game and suggested that for O'Gara to win his 100th cap off then bench was "a little bit harsh", but Galwey insists the Cork Con man would have wanted to play at least some part.

"It would have been a travesty if he hadn't been seen. I was delighted he came on and delighted he performed the way he did," said Galwey. "Okay, he could have been starting but if you asked Ronan if he would like to have played last weekend I think he would and that's the bottom line."

Saturday's showing against Samoa will go a long way towards picking the side for the showdown with the All Blacks, a game, Galwey said, that has taken on a new significance.

"It makes the New Zealand game all the more important now. The players and the management will target the New Zealand match," he said. "They beat England by 10 points but some day Ireland will beat New Zealand and hopefully it will be in our lifetime and hopefully it will be in two weeks' time.

"If Ireland beat them in two weeks' time this will be all forgotten about and I think it's a great opportunity. They have been disappointed with last Saturday. Hopefully we'll see a backlash against Samoa and more importantly against New Zealand."

Irish Independent

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