Thursday 19 April 2018

Wallace recall a statement of creative intent

Tony Ward

Tony Ward

The aim today is two-fold: first and foremost, to take a southern hemisphere scalp on southern hemisphere soil ahead of next year's World Cup.

Given that Australia will be our biggest obstacle to pool success in New Zealand 2011, this blow-out in Brisbane will be particularly relevant in practical and psychological terms.

The second objective is unstated. It is to shut Macker up! Team manager Paul McNaughton, as the sole survivor of the double Test-winning side of '79 still involved, has wallowed in reminding the class of 2010 just what it takes to give the Wallabies a thumping on their own patch.

Today it is the ultra-modern Suncorp, back then it was Brisbane's version of Thomond Park, the world-renowned Ballymore. We won twice at that intimidating venue in a week on that '79 tour, beating Queensland on the Tuesday before turning over the Wallabies four days later.

One thing I do remember is in the post-match revelries, while having a beer with McNaughton, Terry Kennedy and Christy Cantillon, someone pulled back a shutter, thereby exposing us to the hordes of disappointed Aussie supporters down below.

One of our number foolishly waved and what followed was a barrage of cans, bottles and cups thrown in our direction. They are passionate about their rugby in Queensland and that nasty incident made for a chilling reminder of just how much.

While the venue may have moved across town, the deep-rooted passion in Brisbane and the surrounding area continues as strong now as it ever was. Defeat to England in Sydney will have fuelled that passion even more.

Apart from two enforced changes, head coach Robbie Deans has all but declared today's Test a final chance for his players to impress ahead of the Tri Nations. Therefore even the remotest sign of mental distraction on the part of a touring squad -- people tempted to think 'holiday' -- could have the direst consequences.

So what about Ireland? Declan Kidney has got his selection just about right.

A case could be argued for Geordan Murphy on the basis of his contribution to the spirited fightback against the Maori, but for me Rob Kearney did enough against the All Blacks to warrant re-selection. Either way, Kidney has two fine options to choose from for the No 15 jersey.

So too at out-half, where Jonathan Sexton's selection is the right one in the circumstances.


Likewise the entire front row. For all three, opportunity knocks to lay down a marker for starting spots ahead of the next massive World Cup season.

Donncha O'Callaghan stepped up to the mark as a very noticeable leader in Hamilton and that must be repeated.

The only real area of doubt is in the back row but here again the unit smacks of common sense and balance.

Chris Henry has a certain swagger I like. It is not arrogance but is confidence: the Ulsterman has a clear belief in his ability to carry out his duties in the game-influencing No 8 position. He is to the manner born.

He has on either side two extremely mobile flankers in Shane Jennings and Niall Ronan, who will probably chop and change to operate left and right rather than open-side and blind-side.

But the most revealing selection of all is in midfield, where Paddy Wallace's deserved inclusion represents a serious statement of creative intent. Much like Kidney, I am a midfield romantic.

The desire is clearly there. Provided it is backed for the final 80 minutes of the season by the appropriate level of commitment, then, in spite of the odds being stacked against us, it is not beyond the bounds that Macker's tales of derring-do could finally be laid to rest. Here's hoping.

Irish Independent

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