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CJ could stand or fall foul of Ireland's new strategy


CJ Stander

CJ Stander


Max Deegan

Max Deegan



CJ Stander

The slow drip of information from Ireland's Christmas get-together has uncovered the intention to play more positively, expansively.

It looks like Ireland are going to move away from their previous commitment to all-out combat and death by a thousand rucks against any and all opponents.

The most intriguing question for coach Andy Farrell centres around what the Ireland coach will do at the number eight position.

With Jack Conan on the way back from a broken foot, Farrell has three options available to explore.

CJ Stander

If ever there was one man who represented Schmidt's style of play with Ireland, it is the admirable Souh African.

Physicality, work rate and energy are the main ingredients of the Munster number eight's leadership.

When he charges off the base of a scrum in that inimitable way, Stander always asks the question: are you willing to do what it takes to stop me?

With the best will in the world, the vast majority of out-halfs, if he can get to them, are not able to answer that question affirmatively.

However, when Stander receives the ball, there is the distinct impression that it is going nowhere but up his jumper.

And that is a problem.

Max Deegan

The 2016 U20 World Player of the Year did not explode into the professional game as immediately as forecasted.

Back then, there was a looseness to his work, the high quality athleticism enabling Deegan to make the kind of big plays that killed Argentina in that tournament. The nuts and bolts of any eight start with the more mundane chores, carrying hard for little or no reward, rattling rucks, shutting down runners and covering for the mistakes of others.

These days, he is using his skills, finding the right time to show exemplary lines of running and late footwork approaching contact.

The fact is the 23-year-old started out with extravagant gifts, born from natural athleticism, adding the detail that comes with experience.

Caelan Doris

If Stander and Deegan are at opposite ends of the number eight spectrum, there is something of the in-betweener to Doris's game.

He is an all-rounder, reminiscent of Jamie Heaslip, in that there are hardly any holes to be filled in.

It is more a matter of getting incrementally better at all that he does, from his flamboyant offloading to his application to the nitty-gritty.

Leo Cullen made room in last Friday's media briefing to let it be known an illness early in the week had compromised his case for selection against Lyon.

It would come as no surprise to witness the 21-year-old's recall in Tre viso for what would be one last shot at impressing Farrell.