Just to get this off my chest: I don’t understand why Ireland (and the other 6 Nations sides) are preparing for a World Cup in New Zealand by playing matches in the Northern Hemisphere?! I think a much better preparation for the tournament would be to play matches in New Zealand, maybe against some of the provincial sides, or minnow countries, like Fiji or Tonga. That way Ireland, and the others, would get more familiar with playing conditions in New Zealand, with regards to the weather and grounds, etc. The teams would also get familiar with the different interpretations of the rules/laws that the referees use in New Zealand. And also, why are the teams (Ireland especially) playing so many warm-up games? As it stands, Ireland will be playing an international every Saturday in August, until the 27th (that’s 4) and then fly down to New Zealand to start the World Cup on the 11th September. That’s just over 2 weeks preparation! Not enough!
Ireland will be playing warm-up games against Scotland, 2 against France, both home and away, and finally against England. Unfortunately, Ireland are already dealing with injury problems. Gordon D’Arcy is still recovering from an injury he picked up in the Heineken Cup final and will miss all the warm-up games. There’s no word yet on whether he’ll miss the World Cup as well. Brian O’Driscoll will miss the first 2 warm-up games, but hopefully not anymore. Stephen Ferris and Ronan O’Gara are also concerns. Obviously Ireland are in trouble without both its first-choice centres. I would bring Shane Horgan in to replace one of them. I think Horgan was unlucky to miss out on selection for the warm-up squad. Granted he hasn’t played centre in a few years, but he’s an experienced player with a lot to offer. I’d probably move Keith Earls to centre as well. Paddy Wallace is a good player, but I think Horgan and Earls are better than him. O’Gara is a big concern, at out-half. He’s world class and we need all our best players to stand a chance of doing well. Luckily these are just the warm-up games, and not the World Cup itself. The players are in a bit of a catch-22 situation when it comes to the wam-up games. On the one hand, they want to impress the coaches during the warm-up games to get a place in the World Cup squad, but they also don’t want to get injured and miss the World Cup completely (back in 2003, Geordan Murphy was injured before the World Cup that year and wasn’t able to play in it. He really hasn’t being as good a player since). Both Murphy and the other Irish Full Back, Rob Kearney, missed out playing in the 6 Nations completely, so they’ll especially want to make a good impression in the warm-up games.