Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 1 August 2015

Niall Crozier: New faces in Ireland squad not a surprise, but inclusion of old ones is

Published 17/11/2012 | 07:59

Ulster's Paul Marshall has missed out on a starting place for Ireland
Ulster's Paul Marshall has missed out on a starting place for Ireland

The nature of the occasion notwithstanding, the make-up of the Irish XV to play Fiji at Thomond Park this evening was no surprise.

With Mike Ross, Conor Murray and Jamie Heaslip the only survivors of the side beaten 16-12 by South Africa, some may view this as a radical selection by the usually conservative Declan Kidney.

It is not. With the fixture not having Test status, with neither caps nor ranking points awarded, that makes this totally risk-free.

The real test of Kidney’s gambling instinct will come if fly-half Paddy Jackson has a stormer, forcing the cagey coach to choose between him and 36-year-old Ronan O’Gara for back-up in the must-win match against Argentina.

It is because of Kidney’s caution that Jackson’s Ulster colleague, Paul Marshall, has missed out on a starting place. Quite why he has opted for Conor Murray is baffling. Already he is Kidney’s first-choice at senior level, though some — myself among them — continue to question this. So why deploy Murray at this level, too?

Marshall has been the in-form Irish scrum-half since the start of the season. Brought to New Zealand — having suspended surgery in order to travel — he never saw action. Wasn’t this the perfect opportunity to field him?

The inclusion of first-team tight-head Ross makes no sense, either. And Donncha O’Callaghan? He’s 33! He has 89 Irish caps! Why is he starting?

The inclusion of Darren Cave at outside centre alongside a trio of back line debutants — Jackson, Craig Gilroy and Luke Marshall — means Ulstermen in the berths numbered 10-13 inclusive. I’ll take that — on merit rather due to bias.

My fervent hope is that those deserving of a place next weekend make an irrefutable case for themselves, putting the spotlight fully on the coach.

Your Comments

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting?

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph