This will be the AB's first challenge as the Irish to have a chance of victory will need to storm out to a quick lead & hold on from there for victory - see recent game against England as how we achieved this.
The last memory of an Irish team perhaps for most people this side of the world is the loss to Argentina in the second round of the last World Cup - trying to get the match winning try by packing down a 15 man scrum looking for the pushover try. Thankfully that complete lack of imagination got exactly what it deserved! Things have changed radically after that & not before time either! This has culminated in a run of 10 victories in the past 12 games with the only defeat in this year's prolonged 6 nation being away to Scotland (still can't figure out how we lost so badly to the men in kilts), which lead to dropping half the team. The remodelled unit comprehensively beat a very poor Wales (Steve Hansen will have a full plate) & then beating grand slam chasing English, making the victory all the sweeter!! However John Mitchell's assertion that Ireland will start as favourites is well off the mark, but I guess he's trying to play some mind games as if anything is sure to beat Ireland it is to make them favourites - e.g. Scotland game above.
The team that beat England should be close to the team that takes on the AB's on Saturday, injuries & the not so small matter off playing Manu Samoa yesterday (35-8). This has confused matters a little as the team named against Samoa has Ireland resting (a first!) players so that they are fully fit to face the AB's. Looking into my crystal ball I foresee a team something like this:
|Dempsey (if recovered from injury) - dynamic runner when joining the line.
|Horgan (ditto) - tall & strong to combat Lomu
|O'Driscoll - if you don't who he is, you're in the wrong webpage!
|Maggs - filled in well for the injured Lion Henderson & a similar style player.
|Hickey - lightening quick & should have toured with lions - weakeness in defence.
|Humphreys - has shone since replacing O'Gara against Wales.
|Stringer - slighty built but will not stand back from Kelliher.
|Clohessy - in his late 30's & old school prop - very tough.
|Wood - see 13 above!
|Hayes - new school prop, tall & huge, still learning his trade.
|Galwey - the Blackadder of Irish rugby, always gives all, now in twilight of career.
|O'Kelly - superb on his day but inconsistent. Another to fall out with Henry on Lions tour.
|Miller - found form again this season after touring with Lions in South Africa 4 years ago.
|Wallace - great exponent of loose fwd play, late replacement on Lions tour
|Foley - big strong runner at the back if not the quickest. Capt against Samoa.
Dempsey, Horgan, Hickey, Humphreys, O'Kelly & Wallace take no part in the Samoa
game, while Wood & Clohessy are on the bench.
Players on the bench for the AB game are likely be those starting this weekend:
1st five/centres, O'Gara - last seen being used as a punchbag
by some convict on the lions tour - man of the match v Samoa.
Fullback / wing Murphy - making waves for European Champions, Leicester.
Loosies - Dawson - pushing Wallace close for the no.7 jersey.
Lock - Longwell - new boy playing well for Leinster this year.
Prop - Byrne - getting a rare start against Samoa.
Hooker - Sheahan - even rarer start against Samoa!
Finally relative strength of the Irish can assessed by how many would make the AB team & squad: O'Driscoll & Wood are the two world class players in the Irish team & would certainly get into the current ABs (allowing Umaga to revert to the right wing). Wood is also an example for Oliver in that he's far from the most accurate thrower of the ball but has worked hard to get it to an internationally acceptable level to compliment his other footballing skills.
A case could be made for the 2 props, though Clohessy is probably in his final season. Wallace would also be in with a very good shout & it'll be interesting to see how he performs. No-one else would make the team but a few certainly be in the squad, namely at fullback & 1st five while & No.8 & Henderson at centre if he was fit would backup Alatini.
Well there you have it & if you managed to read this far without falling asleep then you deserve a medal!! Roll on Saturday, where hopefully the Irish can give account of themselves & you never know record that elusive first victory over the AB's.
Whatever the score you can be rest assured that ther will be a great night to follow if you happen to be in Dublin.........