Thursday, November 23, 2006

The Golden Age of Irish Rugby

Is it? While I wouldn't get over excited about wins against a South African second team and an Australian team in decline and transition (and a whit discomfited by the extreme weather), nonetheless this is the best Irish rugby team I've seen in my lifetime. And I've seen them all. Jackie Kyle in Musgrave Park, Tony O'Reilly in Lansdowne Road, Gordon Wood in Thomand Park ("more fire Munster forwards" bellowed from the stand) and Tommy Kiernan playing scrum-half for UCC in the Mardyke. For God's sake I walked to Ballyphehane every Saturday of my schooldays to see Dolphin and Sunday's Well play - lantern-jawed Jim Kiernan in the centre, blind Bernie O'Mahoney at out-half and Vincie Giltenan a prop to savour.

There are of course better individuals from the past. You would love to see Sid Millar and Ray McLaughlin in the front row with Ronnie Dawson, and the immortal Ken Goodall at number 8. You'd have to have Tommy Kiernan at full-back - even if he is a Pres boy, and places must be found for Mike Gibson and Simon Geoghegan. But overall this is the greatest team and a number of them would make any Irish team of any era: Brian O'Driscoll, Paul O'Connell, and the underrated David Wallace to name a few.

The only weakness is at prop (but the new tame scrummaging laws will help us out next year) and perhaps at full-back. Stringer has been criticised for the lack of variety in his game but I'd prefer him to the showboating Boss. And who can forget his solo try in the Heineken cup final last year. I'd like Jerry Flannery back at hooker as well - he is an extra loose forward, whereas Best and that Cork Con fat boy are relatively immobile. Leave Dempsey at full-back and bring Murphy on from the bench for extra attacking options.

We'll never have a better chance of winning a Grand Slam. But put your mortgage on New Zealand for the World Cup. You can get 4 to 5 with Sporting Odds. Do it.