Saturday 18 November 2017

Dearth of strength-in-depth a lethal blow to Irish ambitions

Saturday view

Sean Diffley

I MUST admit, I have certain reservations about Declan Kidney's World Cup selection. It took long enough to come to terms with Tomas O'Leary and his obvious and protracted loss of form. Everybody bar Kidney tumbled to that long ago. What to say? It calls for a sharp slap on the wrists, doesn't it?

It requires a slight spate of plagiarism and the help of my old friend "Plum", or P G Wodehouse as you know him. So, I address Deccie coldly and in this particular case tinkerty-tonk and I mean it to sting. And leaving Luke Fitzgerald out of the mixture?

And please don't start me about the omission of Peter Stringer, the best scrum-half in the game. And Tony Buckley in the scrum, is that a Kidney joke?

When the Irish won the Grand Slam and Leinster performed with style and skill and panache in the Heineken Cup final, this column, widely read and highly respected, in its wisdom -- and forgive a momentary blush -- positively forecast that Ireland would win the World Cup.

Recent evidence provided by witnesses from Scotland and France, twice, dismissed such a claim as betise, or nonsense as they would term it west of Dingle.

The probability is that this World Cup will be decided by two elements -- exclusively physical strength and the respective toll of injuries. The French produced two different teams in Bordeaux and Lansdowne, both gifted with an excess of avoirdupois and they comfortably outwrestled the Irish.

And remember the Scots at Murrayfield? They too were superior arm-wrestlers. England, also, will be hoping that their beefy approach will be of value. And then there are the South Africans and the All Blacks.

The French painted a certain picture that if they have some discommoding injuries, they have a surfeit of replacements.

And that reflects the scene in the other squads, totally in contrast to the Irish situation. The fear is that the likes of Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, Ronan O'Gara or Jonny Sexton would be 'hors de combat' -- a lethal blow to Irish hopes of even getting out of the pool section.

This whole injury story, by the way, is a source of great wonder to those of us who plied our rugby boots in a former era. Hamstrings and other minor impediments which our crowd never even heard of are now the order of the day.

Michael Green, in his definitive 'Coarse Rugby', may have solved the conundrum. He writes: "Strenuous exercise can be dangerous to the average Extra B man. Besides, any fool can win by running faster and tackling harder than the opposition.

"It takes brains to win without over-indulging yourself physically. Anything that can be done to win without actually picking up the ball and running with it should be done. Running is a last resort."

Rugby is such a different game nowadays with the science of medicine entering considerations to almost a controlling extent.

My crowd never heard of a scan -- or if they did it was only to estimate the extent of the froth on top of the pint.

Irish Independent

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