Brian McLaughlin used the word ‘conservative’ to describe Declan Kidney’s recent announcement of his Ireland squad. As Ulster coach and subject to the establishment, this was as critical as he probably could get – he must have been tempted to use much stronger language.
Every other Six Nations coach has indulged in a bit of refreshment, while Kidney has stuck to a squad that ultimately came short in New Zealand. My position is not one of Ulster-bias, but there are selections that simply do not stack up.
Donncha O’Callaghan is struggling at Munster, while Leo Cullen is still a magnificent servant for Leinster and could do a job. However, it is time for a whippersnapper to be introduced to learn alongside Paul O’Connell. For me, Dan Tuohy has done enough to merit selection – his power in the scrum alongside Johann Muller is valuable and he offers much more besides.
Chris Henry has been magnificent for Ulster this season and has put his hand up for Man of the Match in virtually every match over the last two months. What more is Kidney going to learn about Shane Jennings?
The most surprising non-selection of all is the notable absence of Paul Marshall, who has been a revelation this season and deserves to have his form recognised. To miss out in favour of Tomas O’Leary, whose star has fallen dramatically, is nothing short of a disgrace.
It is a shame when form is not recognised in selection – it is the only thing that players want. Rugby should be a meritocracy, and Kidney missed several tricks with his announcement.