Panel get headache af­ter try­ing to pick Ire­land XV to play All Blacks

Pun­dits strug­gle to pare down Sch­midt’s abun­dance of re­sources

The Irish Times - Monday - Sport - - Rugby - Mary Han­ni­gan

Come full-time in Chicago, Tommy Bowe pre­sented his panel with the task of se­lect­ing the Ir­ish team for the game against the All Blacks, a slot that Eir Sport should have had spon­sored by Panadol or the like, so headachy did the de­lib­er­a­tions leave Ed­die O’Sul­li­van, An­drew Trim­ble and Pe­ter Stringer.

Be­tween them they sug­gested in or around 42 con­tenders for the 15 avail­able spots; Tommy want­ing three hook­ers and An­drew try­ing to squeeze five play­ers in to his sec­ondrow.

“There’s Dev [Devin Toner], Hen­der­son, Tadhg Beirne, he played out of his skin tonight, Quinn Roux, he was bril­liant tonight, and James Ryan – he’s only lost one game for Ire­land! Och, night­mare. The sec­ondrow de­bate is men­tal,” he con­cluded, his head throb­bing.

Ed­die was, in fair­ness, more de­ci­sive in the end with his se­lec­tion, ba­si­cally pick­ing Le­in­ster (“You have your blue hat on for this one,” said Tommy), but his omis­sion of Ryan in par­tic­u­lar left his panel-mates’ eye-brows turbo-wig­gling.

Tommy also pointed out that Ed­die had ne­glected to se­lect Beirne, Seán O’Brien, not to men­tion Kieran Marmion and Jor­dan Lar­mour, as well as Bundee Aki and Dan Leavy; Ed­die just about re­sist­ing point­ing out that tough and all as the All Blacks are, you can’t send a team of 26 out to play them.

Rud­est of health

“There’s a lot to con­sider,” Pe­ter de­cided, the con­clu­sion be­ing that Ir­ish rugby is in the rud­est of health. Never mind split­ting Dublin in half for Gaelic foot­ball pur­poses, maybe it’s time to do the same to our na­tional rugby team, just to give our 2019 World Cup op­po­nents a shout?

Tommy did, though, warn against such swag­ger­ing af­ter the 54-7 tri­umph in Sol­dier Field, re­mind­ing us Italy only fielded their sec­ond string XV when even their firsts weren’t the great­est of shakes.

Still, Lar­mour’s twin­kle toes, which will surely earn him se­lec­tion for Danc­ing With The Stars one day, were a thing of love­li­ness, re­gard­less of the string they were be­daz­zling. “He re­minds us a bit of our­selves with that foot­work,” a grin­ning Tommy said to An­drew, leav­ing Ed­die and Pe­ter in need of oxy­gen. “The Ital­ian de­fend­ers were like, ‘please stop tor­tur­ing us’,” said Trim­ble, the only sur­prise that Nigel Owens didn’t re­proach the young fella. “I don’t think you need to do that, Jor­dan.”

An­other high­light was that ran­dom woman who popped up on our screens not long af­ter Tommy handed over to Con­nor Mor­ris, like she had just wan­dered in to Sol­dier Field while walk­ing the dog and had a mi­cro­phone thrust in to her hands. “The weather is splen­did on the field, won­der­ful, the sun is find­ing its way through the over­cast cover, the grass is great, it’s very sharp and soft,” she said, be­fore turn­ing to look in to the cam­era. “And the crowd is awe­some,” she said.

As one, Eir Sport view­ers said: “Huh?”

Fem­i­nine side

And then there was that mo­ment in the mid­dle of the game when it seemed like Ire­land and Italy had found their fem­i­nine side. “Don’t worry,” said Con­nor, in­form­ing us the host broad­caster had de­cided at that mo­ment to show us high­lights from the game be­tween the women of New Zealand and Eng­land.

It was pos­si­bly the only mo­ment all evening co-com­men­ta­tor Luke Fitzger­ald fell si­lent, the ap­pear­ance of the ladies on his mon­i­tor in the midst of the boys’ game ren­der­ing him speech­less. Un­til then, and all the while af­ter, if he’d been paid by the word he’d have left War­ren Buf­fett look­ing like a pau­per.

In fair­ness to the fella, he ac­knowl­edged af­ter that he was a touch on the gar­ru­lous side, call­ing to mind the late, great Richie Be­naud’s ad­vice that you should “put your brain into gear and if you can add to what’s on the screen then do it, oth­er­wise shut up”. But Luke’s far from the only of­fender, these days if your com­men­tary box peo­ple fall si­lent for 10 sec­onds you just as­sume the sound on your telly is bro­ken.

But there was lots to talk about, not least those eight tries. “Ire­land are dip­ping in to that Pan­dora’s box of tricks,” said Con­nor when the sixth was scored. Pan­dora’s box, of course, is “a process that once be­gun gen­er­ates many com­pli­cated prob­lems”. Like pick­ing Ire­land’s XV for the All Blacks. Forty-two in to 15 just won’t go.

There’s Dev [Devin Toner], Hen­der­son, Tadhg Beirne, he played out of his skin tonight, Quinn Roux, he was bril­liant tonight, and James Ryan – he’s only lost one game for Ire­land! Och, night­mare. The sec­ond row de­bate is men­tal

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