Cullen defends show of jitters
World Cup shadow makes for ‘anxious’ win over Connacht
LEINSTER openside Shane Jennings will move straight into the Ireland team to play France tomorrow if David Wallace cannot overcome a tight hamstring between now and then.
Jennings was suffering from a stomach bug this week and has not played one minute of pre-season to this point. It would come as a shot for glory given that David Wallace is nailed on and Sean O’Brien, presumably, pencilled in as the back-up seven. This all adds to what Ireland’s midweek captain Leo Cullen called the “anxiety” for players last night on the heels of an Ireland Select’s uneven, six-try 38-3 dismissal of Connacht at Donnybrook.
“There were mixed emotions in our camp. Some guys have a pretty good idea they’re not going to be involved in the World Cup; other guys have an inkling they will be. “Everyone was coming from a different kind of mindset for the game,” Cullen said. “I have been on the wrong end of decisions eight years ago and four years ago. When people sit down and set individual goals for themselves, where they want to be, this is obviously a big part of it.
“You’re an Irish rugby player. That is what you want to be at. “You want to be going to these tournaments. Suddenly, it gets closer and closer and there is that anxiety. It has been an anxious time. “I think Deccie has been doing the rounds over the last while. Some have an idea; some are hanging in the wings. It is a tough time,” he conceded. Hooker Sean Cronin chose to see the positive side of the argument. He hasn’t heard from Kidney and he would prefer not to: “It is probably a good sign when he doesn’t call you over or you don’t see his number on the phone.”
In terms of Ireland’s World Cup squad, number eight Denis Leamy and wing Fergus McFadden were the standout performers. Ireland started sluggishly and the front row was in immediate trouble at the scrum. DWINDLING Defence coach Les Kiss admitted it “will be something we will have to have a look at” and the prospects of John Hayes and Tony Buckley must be dwindling by the hour. The problem is there is no legitimate back-up at tight-head. In terms of the match, Ireland made heavy weather of a simple, overwhelming overlap going left for lock Mick O’Driscoll to eventually touchdown in the 15th minute. Fly-half Paddy Wallace converted.
The quick thinking of Fergus McFadden, from a throw-in, exploited Connacht’s disorganised defence to put Cullen over unopposed for the second seven-pointer. Hooker Cronin’s rash work at a ruck gave Niall O’Connor the chance to split the posts for Connacht’s opening points at the end of the first quarter. From there, the Connacht scrum took over to deny Ireland a platform to increase their 14-3 lead by the break. On resumption, there was a greater urgency to Ireland’s approach play. Centre Darren Cave’s break and inside return pass to Geordan Murphy was all the Leicester Tiger needed to scoot clear.
Wing McFadden stepped inside Henry Fa’alifi for the fourth in the 62rd minute and set up centre Ian Keatley for the fifth two minutes later. Murphy was on hand to send Denis Hurley to the whitewash in the 77th minute for a 35-point advantage.