Re-posted with thanks to Harpin on Rugby:
This week the blue jersey has been cleaned and put back into the cupboard and the long sleeve green jersey has been taken out and is being prepared to be worn and sweated in for the next while.
Believe it or not, I think we will be one of the top two teams in this 6 Nations. A mixture of fixtures working in our favor, the form of the younger players and the fact that Kidney is playing for a new contract makes me very positive about the upcoming games.
Whilst the side that ended November would never have been a side that Kidney would ever pick given his first choice 15. The way they autumn games finished might have changed his thinking a tiny bit. The picking of Gilroy is a sign of this. We are facing a pair of beasts on the welsh wings, North and Cuthbert are monsters and would be favorites to win the air battle against Gilroy and, to a lesser extent, Zebo. I thought Trimble for 40-60 minutes would have been the way to go instead of Gilroy, but Kidney has shown some testicular fortitude with the Gilroy call.
This call alone may give the team a lift. It gives the signal that they team should express themselves just as they did against Argentina. Everyone knows that Argentina where not interested, but it was our best win against a ranked team in a long time, outside of the world cup. The performance stopped the pumas from playing, even if they wanted to. We need to get on the pitch with the exact same mind set.
As usual, and I am sure you get bored of me saying it, we need to do the simple things right. Minimize the errors and take the ref out of the game. Poite can be contrary (being nice in case he reads this), so we need to keep him onside. We have Wales number in the lineout, their second row is fairly ropey, we have 4 jumpers, so the lineout should be ours all day. The scrum will be interesting, Powell is back for Wales, but again, I am picking our front row to put the welsh on their heels.
There does seem to be positive vibes coming from the team, the selection of Heaslip is a huge call. There are rumors abounding that Kidney didn’t pay Drico the respect of telling him before making the announcement. If that is true, then it is another bad decision from a coach that knows his time is near. But with Brian being the professional he is (being one of his twitter followers means I can use his first name), I expect him to have the best stats of the tournament. The armband is something that will galvanize heaslip. He made a mistake against the ‘Boks, not a mistake that cost us the match, but a mistake that exacerbated the result. We were going backwards when Heaslip was yellow carded. But he has learnt from this mistake and has some experience in the former captain there for him to lean on if needed.
Our backline is better than the welsh. More rumors of a Kearney knock in training may change this at game time, but as of now, it is Kearney and full back with Zebo and Gilroy on the wings. Kearney should have his name on the jersey instead of the number. Zebo was awesome for Munster in their last Heineken cup match. The team looked tired and incapable until Zebo lit the flash paper. The form he is showing is something that will frighten Wales. I wonder will he sneak inside a few times? Gilroy on the other hand has not been playing first team rugby since November. Trimble has been playing blinders for Ulster. As heard on off the ball (@secondcaptains) earlier tonight, the great Shane Horgan was saying that Trimble may be a victim of doing exactly what he is told. Staying wide and not getting as involved as Gilroy did against Argentina. This would explain his disjointed performances in green for the last while. He is a great player, once he does the opposite of what Kidney tells him, he will be back terrorizing defenses.
The forwards will have a tough game. We need to at least match them in the scrum. I think our front row has the experience to do that.
The team has been selected already, and can be seen on www.irishrugby.ie. It is a fairly strong selection. Believe it or not, I would have started with Donncha in the second row for the first half. We need a win to open up the competition and his cunning / cheekiness would be useful here. He is not best utilized coming on at the hour mark. Along with that, if we are looking towards the world cup (please don’t mention the world cup), then why is Ronan O’Gara in the squad? Ronan is not playing the next rwc, and he is NOT Brian O’Driscoll so for me, I think Keatley or Madigan should be playing. The demands of the IRFU that we must win a certain amount of games limits what Kidney can do.
I think we will win by a score by playing a tight, tough game for the first 20 minutes. After that the backs will come into the game and cut wales deeply.
As usual, feel free to chat/abuse/debate with me on twitter @nkeegan.
Until next week….