Sidelining of Stringer a mystery that only Kidney can explain
As someone said, it gets curious and curiouser. I am referring to the general view -- outside the portals inhabited by Ireland coach Declan Kidney -- that the virtual dismissal to the role of outsider of Peter Stringer, is the strangest decision of the season.
It ranks among the most crass decisions alongside that of the dropping of the Irish captain and full-back Con Murphy in 1947 after Ireland had amassed a record 22 points, scoring five tries, against a scoreless England.
Murphy was the only Irish international who had played back before the Second World War in 1939. There was never an explanation for that post-war decision (taken a few months prior to our first Grand Slam), either.
The basic situation is that Ireland have a pack of forwards which is physically inferior to all the Six Nations, but behind the scrum Ireland have one of the most skilful combinations in our history.
The logic, then, surely, is to concentrate on furnishing that back division with the quickiest, fastest, most efficient possession? But what does Kidney do?
He sticks rigidly to scrum-half Tomas O'Leary, a brave and talented footballer with all the attributes of a back-row forward of the Willie Duggan stamp. But O'Leary is not a passer and clearly not the one to provide decent service to his backs.
And when O'Leary withdraws because of his back problem, what does Kidney do? He brings in Eoin Reddan, another talented scrum-half, but, like O'Leary, a laboured passer. And Stringer gets to the replacements bench!
thus, for most sporting followers who have witnessed Stringer in splendid form this season, sending out those radar passes that are accepted like manna from heaven by his out-halves, it gets stranger and stranger.
So, what's going on at the Irish selection meetings?
Kidney, of course, has the determining voice, but one wonders as to what input backs coach Alan Gaffney has? One would believe that Gaffney would be sufficiently anxious for his backs to be well served with useful possession, but are his views being over-ruled? What one would give to be a fly on the wall.
As for the Scots at Murrayfield tomorrow, after a good display against France, they were humiliated in an appalling performance against Wales and there are none so menacing as a team that is being derided by all and sundry.
Still, Scotland have no winger tomorrow of the remarkable quality of the so-called 'Flying Scotsman', Ian Smith. He played 31 times for Scotland between 1924 and 1933 and scored 24 tries, which is still a record in the championship.
His last match was at Lansdowne Road in 1933 when he captained Scotland to win the championship and Triple Crown. In 1925 he scored four tries against Wales and repeated that feat against France.
Perhaps the most unusual aspect was that on his first cap in 1924, all four three-quarters were from Oxford University -- Smith, Macpherson, Aitken and Wallace -- in the 35-10 win over Wales. Smith scored three tries on his debut.
If Brian O'Driscoll could do something like that today and add to his 23 all-time try list, he would take over from the Flying Scotsman.