Tommy Bowe and Darren Cave dismiss criticism of Jared Payne
Band of brothers come to defence of team-mate
Tommy Bowe has taken unkindly to Matt Williams barbed comments about Jared Payne.
The Monaghan man has suggested the ex-Ulster coach has been living up to a "bad cop" billing as a World Cup analyst for TV3.
This is the wing's interpretation of the criticisms Williams has made about Payne's placement at outside centre.
In fairness, the Australian made fair comment about average general play and poor execution by Payne against Romania, leading into a call for a redesigned centre partnership.
"He's making really poor decisions: he's kicking the ball all the time and he's kicking very badly," said Williams in studio on Sunday.
"He's not making breaks. He's running across field.
"So, you can tick just about every box for doing things wrong as an outside centre in attack," he bristled.
"I certainly do not believe that for us to go deep in the tournament that's going to be good enough.
"We have to get some centres that are going to show the ability to go through teams."
The problem is Williams cherry-picked the mistakes made and chose to omit the many positive contributions by Payne such as the two turnovers on the floor and the undeniable muscularity he brings to defence.
Bowe, not known for public outbursts, has jumped to the defence of the naturalised Irish international.
"I think we're well used to it at this stage. That's why we don't watch it anymore.
"I know Matt Williams. I was coached by him," said Bowe, in what seemed like a veiled reference to Williams credentials.
Certainly, there was an underlying feeling among some Ulster players that the Australian was not all he was cracked up to be during his short tenure there between 2008 and 2009.
The siege mentality that is the hallmark of any collective that comes under fire should tighten the Irish management and squad even further.
"I don't think any of the players will be getting too upset about it. Maybe he's just playing the 'bad cop' role on TV, I don't know."
"I think, as a squad, the players would be very confident in Jared's ability," continued Bowe.
"He's certainly one of the very popular lads around the squad, so I don't think he'll be getting too upset about it."
The most ironic outcome out of this tasty disagreement is that Williams pushed for the introduction of Darren Cave as a genuine, natural outside centre and used the fact Cave made two clean breaks against Romania to support his case.
In return, Cave has felt it necessary to ignore the positive personal remarks from his former coach in order to defend Payne under the banner of the band of international brothers.
"In fairness to Jared I'd be surprised if he's paid much attention to it, but if it was me I would probably be pretty annoyed," said Cave.
"It can be frustrating when guys are just throwing out opinions which aren't based on the facts of what actually happened in the game.
"Then, suddenly, that becomes everyone else's opinion of guys who've had a couple of beers and watched the game.
"Then, after a week, it's the perception of half the nation and it's just completely false."
Moreover, Brian O'Driscoll weighed into the argument about Payne's impact after he originally made Robbie Henshaw his idea of the next Irish 13.
"He's probably the sixth or seventh name on the team. That's how important he's become," O'Driscoll told On The Ball listeners.
"I understand the thirteen position quite well, particularly defensively.
"You've got to be a good tackler but you've got to be able to read things in a split second.
"I think he's doing a really good job and he's becoming the glue to our really effective half-back pairing.
"Just being able to be a good distributor without having to do anything crazy fancy himself. He's creating space for the guys outside.
"First and foremost, he's defensively super sound. He has lovely touches, he reads the game well, he sees opportunities."
Not a bad recommendation.