Paddy hasn't got it whacked yet
Published 09/12/2006 | 00:00
From the master, a message. Paddy Wallace, says Ollie Campbell, has a significant, serious problem. He desperately needs to be playing match after match, season after season, year following year at outside half.
The Ulsterman's performance against Pacific Islands has highlighted a serious potential. But Campbell, one of Ireland's greatest outside halves, says that the development of Ronan O'Gara proves conclusively his point.
"Ronan O'Gara is playing the rugby of his life. But look at how many years he has played regularly in the No. 10 jersey to get to this stage. He is blossoming now, but he's 28. That is Paddy Wallace's problem, he's not playing every week in the outside half position.
"I have always thought that outside half, more than any other on the field, is a position that demands a long apprenticeship. Having the opportunity to play there on a regular basis is essential to Wallace's own personal development and it is also crucial from the IRFU's point of view. Having their second choice No. 10 not playing in the role each week has to be a matter of concern."
So is Wallace now the clear second choice to O'Gara ? Probably, says Campbell, but he advises caution in reading too much into the Ulsterman's display against the Pacific islanders.
"I think it's probably a little on the dangerous side to read too much into that. But his confidence will have grown immensely from starting a match, playing the whole game and performing like that. He really could not have done any more and he looked to my mind the consummate footballer.
"Of course, he has an awful long way to go to challenge Ronan O'Gara for the position. But O'Gara cannot and must not be allowed to play every single match. Especially not in a World Cup campaign. He should be rested for some of the group qualifying matches. Which is where someone like Wallace comes in.
"But I'd be concerned at his lack of regular experience in the role. Undoubtedly, the role is there for him in the Irish squad but his problem is simply not playing enough games there. Coming to terms with this position is absolutely fundamental. And you cannot do that in a few games or a single season. It takes a lot of time."
One possible solution, says Campbell, might be for Ulster to play Wallace at 10 in their Magners League games. But as he says: "They're defending Champions and they must be the ones who decide which one is the best to go with. David Humphreys has been a superb player so it's not easy.
And I'd say the jury must still be out on Wallace to a certain degree."
"Making too many assumptions on the basis of that one game would be premature. But he does look a real prospect - a player who can take over if O'Gara were injured."