herald

Wednesday 20 September 2017

Wolf men ready to lay down a marker

It could be that the Irish Wolfhounds' two English-born second rows, Mike McCarthy and Dan Tuohy, are the players with the most to play for against the England Saxons tonight.

Ireland coach Declan Kidney had to be taken on his word when he offered hope of a promotion for Irish Wolfhounds to, perhaps, make an impact in the Six Nations before the conclusion of the tournament.

To foster internal competition, Wolfhounds coach Eric Elwood has chosen to mould a temporary partnership out of Ulster's Tuohy and Connacht's McCarthy.

On the face of it, these two in-form locks are more similar than different in their style of play. Both are athletic, quick for their position and dynamic ball carriers who can run in the open spaces.



Problem

This could quickly become a problem when it comes to dealing with the better balanced old-school lineout approach of Harlequins' lock George Robson marrying his skills to those of hard-hitting London Irish lock Matt Garvey.

The point is Elwood has sacrificed balance for, maybe, a one-on-one between Tuohy and McCarthy to see whho can adapt best to the conditions on the day and the opponents in front of them.

"We have a good spine through it (the pack), with Dan Tuohy and Mike McCarthy giving us some really good ability across the set piece and in the carrying stakes," said Elwood.

The former Ireland out-half-turned-Connacht coach has been in the business of blowing McCarthy's trumpet for him.

When Kidney asked McCarthy to be that back-five squad option for the World Cup, he did not play to the standard required. Donnacha Ryan won that mini-battle.

Since then, London-born McCarthy has been nothing short of sensational for Connacht, the standout performer against Leinster in the PRO12 League on New Year's Day and again against Harlequins in the Heineken Cup last week.

The 30-year-old former England U21, London Wasps and Newcastle Falcons forward is quite simply at the peak of his powers in his sixth season at Connacht. He has done it the hardest way.

Bristol-born Tuohy moved from Exeter Chiefs to Ulster at the beginning of the 2009-2010 season as a special project. He has seen off Ryan Caldwell to Bath and won 59 caps for the province and played twice for Ireland.

Tuohy has blossomed into a ball-handling, livewire lock in a pack of provincial forwards spearheaded by South African beef, All Black tight John Afoa, Stephen Ferris and Irish Wolfhounds captain Chris Henry.

At a time when Donncha O'Callaghan is coming to the end of his international career and Leo Cullen may have already reached it, McCarthy and Tuohy are two men who can breathe life back into the position.

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