Joe Schmidt’s decision to name an unchanged back row for Ireland’s Six Nations tie against Italy this weekend has not gone down well with everyone.
CJ Stander, Sean O’Brien and Jamie Heaslip all retain their places from the disappointing 27-22 defeat to Scotland in Murrayfield last weekend, despite speculation that Josh van der Flier would be drafted in ahead of the latter.
David Corkery believes that Schmidt should have made that particular call, with the former Ireland and Munster man admitting to RTE Sport that he is “disappointed” with the lack of a change:
“I am disappointed with the back row selection. It would have been Heaslip [to come out of the starting fifteen], van der Flier would have been in.
“Jamie Heaslip has been magnificent and has played his best rugby in the last two years. He has matured.
“But you have to have an out-and-out seven. You have to have a dog who is prepared to put his head where you wouldn’t put a brick, especially at the breakdown.
“We didn’t have one against Scotland. We had too many guys just waiting out to get the ball and take it up again.”
Corkery also lamented the absence of Peter O’Mahony, insisting that Ireland missed a player with his bravery aggression against Scotland:
“We didn’t have someone of Peter O’Mahony’s ability…he’s a Rottweiler. It’s the best way to describe him in the game.
“He’s there, he’s at the breakdown, he’s fighting, putting huge pressure on the nine to get rid of the ball.”
Depending on how Heaslip performs against Conor O’Shea’s Italy on Saturday that change could come in due course, but O’Mahony (and fly-half Johnny Sexton) are expected to return for the match against France later this month.
Schmidt may not have altered the back row but he did see fit to make two changes from the opening weekend, with Donnacha Ryan and Cian Healy coming in for Iain Henderson and Jack McGrath respectively.