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Irish Lions Centre Pairing

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Post by red_stag on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:21 am

In 2009 the British and Irish Lions played a centre combination against the Cheetahs of:

12 Luke Fitzgerald
13 Keith Earls

For Ireland I think we have never seen this pairing.

I see lots of suggestions from posters who are unhappy with Darcy at 12 but I rarely if ever see this combination suggested. Would Irish posters be happy to see it. What would fans of other teams think of it.

Personally I feel we have better options but would be interested to hear what people think about this.
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Post by scoi on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:37 am

I saw Fitz play centre for Leinster early this season (or maybe last) and he wasn't all that effective and certainly think there would be better options for Ireland in the centre.

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Post by Artful_Dodger on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:47 am

Would like to see Cave tried at 13.

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Post by Rory_Gallagher on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 12:26 pm

I would be very happy to see Fitz at 13, but not 12. Earls out in the back three.

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Post by Hookisms and Hyperbole on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 12:49 pm

I thought Earls was a plus point during the Six Nations. I think his distribution still is open to questions but his defence was pretty good. I know he has been criticised for his performance against Lenister, and though he didn't show much with ball in hand (like the entire Munster backline), he put in a pretty good shift in defence. This weekend will put up some questions as before the Six Nations Darren Cave was the form 13 in Ireland and it unfortunate he got injured before the tournament.

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Post by funnyExiledScot on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 1:28 pm

I agree that Earls is a better back three player. Until Ireland can find a creative spark at 12 to put Earls into space at 13, then I think he's wasted there. Yes, his defence wasn't too bad in the 6 Nations, but he really wasn't given much of a chance to show what he's capable of with D'Arcy fumbling around at 12.

As for Fitzgerald at 12, I don't think it's a bad idea. I don't recall seeing that Lions game you're referring to but just thinking of his skills set it may be worth a shot. Not for Ireland though until Leinster give it a go.

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Post by rodders on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 1:33 pm

I'd actually like to see Cave and Earls paired together as they were for the A's a whileback.

Cave has the brains, skills and subtledy and Earls has the pace. Its a good fit and Earls can only funtion in the centre with a partner who directs him around and organises the attack in my opinion.

Cave is the perfect foil for either Earls or McFadden imo.
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Post by Sin é on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 1:43 pm

red_stag wrote:In 2009 the British and Irish Lions played a centre combination against the Cheetahs of:

12 Luke Fitzgerald
13 Keith Earls

For Ireland I think we have never seen this pairing.

I see lots of suggestions from posters who are unhappy with Darcy at 12 but I rarely if ever see this combination suggested. Would Irish posters be happy to see it. What would fans of other teams think of it.

Personally I feel we have better options but would be interested to hear what people think about this.

I've been saying this for a long time now. What I like about this pair is that they both have pace to burn and Luke has all the attributes now to move to centre. Excellent in defence, good offload and a step. The problem is for Earls at the moment than none of his partners have the pace to keep up with him when he makes a break. Likewise with Luke. You may recall a break that Earls made against Wales (that time of the illegal ball win) from his own 22 and Luke was right up there in support (although he was playing terrible at fullback). The move finished when Healy or Cronin knocked on (Paddy wallace didn't pass out to the wing to earls).

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Post by Rava on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 4:02 pm

Neither of the two players named is a 12. At best both are back three players.
Earls did really well during the six nations at 13 and I hope Ireland continue to allow him to play there. He would need to improve his passing skills though. I also think that Cave needs to get some time in this position as well.
It's been said before (a number of times) that in the immediate future we should be playing a combination of BOD/Earls or BOD/Cave. I would go along with that and develop a more natural passer of the ball at 12. That may well be Sexton going forward but there is also Marshall and O'Malley to consider.
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Post by Gretgael1 on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 5:27 pm

I'm pretty sure Fitzgerald was almost certain to start along side BOD against New Zealand a few years ago but ended up getting injured. Think he played 12 against the baa baas the week before as well. Also, I think it was the test when Paddy Wallace started and scored? Anyone else remember this, or is it just in my mind?

I think it could be worth a shot playing Fitzgerald centre. I have to say he frustrates me at times with his constant stepping off his left foot in field. He has decent pace so I'd love to see him try and take his man on the outside occasionally, just so he won't become predictable. He's still very young and I think if we get him settled in one position we have a hell of a player. Problem is he seems to be moved around a bit and his best form this season has been when he's had a run of games on the wing.

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Post by JmD on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 5:34 pm

What is the obsession the Irish have with trying shoehorn the best 15 players on to the pitch, regardless of position? Fitzgerald is not an international centre, especially not a 12, and many would argue the same for Earls. Can't we just pick the best 12 and the best 13?

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Post by Rory_Gallagher on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 5:49 pm

Well to be perfectly honest, we aren't sure what the best positions are for Earls and Fitz. Plus I think 13 suits Fitz perfectly.

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Post by rodders on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 7:34 pm

Thats not true Rory, Fitzgerald's best position is 11 and Earls best is 22.... Run
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Post by ME-109 on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 8:28 pm

Earls is far and away the best 13 we have at the moment based on the 6ns and the HC games for Munster.

Question is finding a 12 to work with him. Wouldnt be against Luke Fitz being tried but most people want to see BOD inside Earls....

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Post by Standulstermen on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 8:54 pm

Whilst i disagree with DOD i do think Earls had a decent 6N. But for me it depends on what role he plays next season with Laulala coming in. I think there is enough scope to give Cave a cap in NZ with Earls playing centre in one or both other games.

What is telling is that we have Fitzgerald who is 25 (?) and no-one knows for certain if he is a 12, 13, 11 or 15 (well most would definitely say not a 15). McFadden is 25 or 26 and whilst most think he is a 12 he sees as much if not more gametime at 13 and a fair amount on the wing.

Earls is slightly different in that most people outside of munster think he is a back three player whilst most munsterites think he is a 13.

Why are these three talented buggers not all specialised? Have we become obsessed with utility backs? To not know where Luke Fitzgeralds best position is given that he has been on the international scene for over 4 years is quite frankly embarrassing.

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Post by maestegmafia on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 9:22 pm

Interesting read.

When the great O'Driscoll finally does drop rugby for politics what ireland will miss is not a great attacking player, you have plenty of those in Earls, Cave and Fitzgerald plus more, but it is BODs defensive virtues that are unparralleled.

The amount of turn overs he creates is astonishing, he is like a world class open side at the tackle breakdown.

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Post by Rory_Gallagher on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 10:36 pm

DOD wrote:Earls is far and away the best 13 we have at the moment based on the 6ns and the HC games for Munster.

Question is finding a 12 to work with him. Wouldnt be against Luke Fitz being tried but most people want to see BOD inside Earls....

Laugh

thumbsup

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Post by Golden on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 10:54 pm

Think McFadden and Cave would make an excellent partnership.

Cave has everything to be a top class centre except a bit of pace and an injury free run. McFadden meanwhile has buckets of pace and needs someone like Cave to organise him in defence. Think they would bring out the best in each other.

O'Driscoll, McFadden, Cave and Earls should be the centres we bring to New Zealand (maybe with a Spence or O'Malley thrown in depending on numbers) the first two primarily as 12s and the latter two as 13s.

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Post by Standulstermen on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:00 pm

i would pretty much agree with all that golden. Earls future should be decided one way or another imo. Is he a wing or a centre. If he is a centre then fair enough but laulala will have to bench for the big games next season.

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Post by Golden on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:10 pm

I like Earls at centre. I think he could be really good and would really benefit from having someone like O'Driscoll inside him talking with him the whole match. But I really like Cave at 13 think hes a brilliant player at pro 12 and HC cup level. Is he good enough for Internationals? Not sure but he deserves a chance to find out.

As for 12s Darcy has to be dropped and i cant see Wallace featuring in Kidneys plans so that leaves McFadden and hopefully O'Driscoll.

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Post by maestegmafia on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:25 pm

No one rate Eoin O'Malley?

Not a mention yet, looks a great player to me

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Post by ME-109 on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:32 pm

With Howlett getting another year Earls will be centre for Munster and Ireland next year.

Stand is right about all these utility backs we have...you don't see other countries doing that.

Cave is a good player but I dont see him at into level yet. He might get on the plane to NZ but can't see him making more than the bench

O'Malley is another possibility

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Post by drsambo1928 on Tue 03 Apr 2012, 11:38 pm

Downey 12. A big hitter and a big man. Something Ireland hasn't had at 12 for awhile with the Clongowegian stump playing there for too long. It's a big call but I think he will be a big player for Munster next year. Ofcourse the man himself at 13, who else.

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Post by Rory_Gallagher on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 12:07 am

Downey is one dimensional and very average. He would not suit Ireland.

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Post by Standulstermen on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 12:21 am

Do you think Earls will be first choice 13 with Laulala coming in DOD? Fair enough if so.

I think Earls has shown enough to retain the jersey but i also think we dont need to do with earls what we have done with BOD. Use him, use him, use him and then not have alternatives. 3 back to back tests and i think Cave has more than earned the right to start 1. He might not make it as an international but it wont kill us to give him the odd game (even if you consider him the second best 13) so that we actually have depth that we trust and can look too in periods of injury/loss of form.

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Post by drsambo1928 on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 12:22 am

Downey will come on leaps and bounds at Munster. I can see it.

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Post by red_stag on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 10:29 am

DrSambo,

I am unhappy with Downeys signing. I would have rathered Ian Whitten who went to Chiefs.

I agree with DOD, we are looking at:

09 Murray
10 O'Gara
11 Zebo
12 Laulala
13 Earls
14 Howlett
15 Jones

21 Stringer
22 Keatley
23 Hurley

Its hard to see where Downey will fit in at Munster never mind at Ireland.
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Post by thebluesmancometh on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 10:32 am

Laulala isnt anywhere near as effective at 12 boys. Without the room and space to attack he just goes into contact looking like a fish out of water, all wriggly and flopping around. He spills the ball much more often!

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Post by red_stag on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 10:34 am

Blue, to me he is the creative force in your team.
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Post by thebluesmancometh on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 10:40 am

He is don't get me wrong, but as an individual. Whnever he breaks it tends to be solo as noone ever knows what he's going to do.

He will break the line, but is far more effective at 13 than 12.

And when you look at who is around him in Hewitt, Evans, and Roberts someone has to play ball player. He was leaving the role to Henson who was doing ok when given a chance but well, now they are both gone...

GOOD JOB PIEMAN!!!! Now if we could just offload that pesky 1/2p and Cuthbert we could anhialate the backline as an entity totally, now we're on to something!

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Post by Standulstermen on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 11:00 am

I would be massively unhappy from an Irish perspective if Laulala plays 12 as that would mean hanrahan is 3rd choice (unless he gets gametime at 10 possibly?)

From an opposition point of view I would be delighted to see Laulala at 12 as I don't think he would break the line all that much close in and I don't think he has the passing range to help earls

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Post by thebluesmancometh on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 11:26 am

Stand

He broke the line and played a 20 yarder against you to win at the CAP recently. Although that was at 13, and he had moved to the 12 spot later on.

But you are right, and thats the way to think IMO. If Laulala takes a youngsters spot he's a hinderance, if he is there to compliment the Munster midfeild in aiding the progression of the younger boys then he's an asset.

At the blues he was the game changer, the be all and end all, and was there as first choice. If fit he plays if not someone else gets a half shot. I think he's hindered Daf Hewitt by being there.

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Post by Standulstermen on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 12:31 pm

Blues

He is a good 13 IMO but he went through Humphreys. I wouldn't call that too significant. He will certainly add to munster but I dont see him as a 12 or a back up 13. I think he will start at 13. A lot may depend onthe new coach

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Post by Hookisms and Hyperbole on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:02 pm

Just thought I's stick my Ulster oar in here about Whitten. I know what Geoff has said on moving players out on a certain level of wages to accommodate new signings, but the decision to get rid of Whitten really puzzles me. We have the two form 12s in Ireland this season in Paddy 'Bloody' Wallace and Ian Whitten. Why on earth are we getting rid of him? It just doesn't make sense, especially when Downey, who I do not rate whatsoever, has moved to Munster. Would it not have been better for Irish rugby to have an irish 12 with potential rather than Downey who will not get capped for Ireland again move into that spot?

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Post by rodders on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:17 pm

Yup totally agree Hookism.

I think Whitten wanted the move though but yes he is much better than Downey and someone I would like to have stayed in the Irish system.

From an Ulster perspective is a a very valuable squad member and someone I'm sorry to see go.

There is a lack of big powerful 3/4s around hence Downeys name always comes up but Whitten offers way more.
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Post by dragonbreath on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:23 pm

Standulstermen wrote:I would be massively unhappy from an Irish perspective if Laulala plays 12 as that would mean hanrahan is 3rd choice (unless he gets gametime at 10 possibly?)

From an opposition point of view I would be delighted to see Laulala at 12 as I don't think he would break the line all that much close in and I don't think he has the passing range to help earls


Yeh hes useless that Laulala, I wouldn't play him at all if were you Whistle

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Post by Sin é on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:45 pm

Gretgael1 wrote:I'm pretty sure Fitzgerald was almost certain to start along side BOD against New Zealand a few years ago but ended up getting injured. Think he played 12 against the baa baas the week before as well. Also, I think it was the test when Paddy Wallace started and scored? Anyone else remember this, or is it just in my mind?

He did - but it was in Croke Park (2008) and the ABs just ran at him all day. Really felt sorry for him. It was after that he really sorted his defence. He also played against Argentina as well that year and was much better.

I think it could be worth a shot playing Fitzgerald centre. I have to say he frustrates me at times with his constant stepping off his left foot in field. He has decent pace so I'd love to see him try and take his man on the outside occasionally, just so he won't become predictable. He's still very young and I think if we get him settled in one position we have a hell of a player. Problem is he seems to be moved around a bit and his best form this season has been when he's had a run of games on the wing.

I'm a big fan as well. Now that he has fullback out of his head (or its been taken out of it), he might concentrate on centre.
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Post by Hookisms and Hyperbole on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:46 pm

Rodders, I know this will sound like sacrilege given our success at the moment, but I am a little disillusioned with the Ulster setup at the moment. Don't get me wrong, if we win at the weekend I will celebrate as much as the next person. However, there are just a few things this season that have happened that have left a sour taste in my mouth. The treatment of McLaughlin was simply appalling, and to my mind blatant lies were told by Logan and Humphrys over the appointment of a 'big name' and 'experienced coach' to replace him. If that were true then we would have appointed someone with a reputation. Let's put it this way, I am a genuinely big Ulster fan and I had to google to get the name right. I knew there was a 'combe' in there, but thats about it.

I am not a fan of their recruitment policy. For sure, Pienaar, Wanneberg, Muller and Afoa have been brilliant players. But do we need to spend so much money on big name imports to the detriment of younger upcoming Ulstermen? And we seem to be very quick to cut young, talented players go like Faloon and Whitten rather than sticking with them. Obviously success has bread success. But if Trimble and Bowe for example, had been in a similar position, they may well have been likewise been released when they were going through bad provincial form. Foreign players can really bring on younger talents, players like Harrison, Muller and Pienaar have been really success stories. But when we could line up with perhaps as many as 6 or 7 non-Irish qualified players then what does that do for the international side?

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Post by Rory_Gallagher on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:55 pm

I disagree with almost all of that Hookisms.. our signings have been not only key to our own performances, but they have been a huge influence to the younger players and their development. Faloon has not hit the heights he needs to, and is therefore leaving. He hasn't been developing. Whitten has had a good season, but he is nothing special, no disrespect intended. He is a good option, but nothing more. A decent prospect, and I wish all the best for him with the Chiefs (and Faloon with Connacht, which I think is a good move for him). The only young player I feel has been managed poorly is Spence.

As for thinking Ulster don't develop young talent, did you see the team that went up against Leinster around Christmas??

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Post by rodders on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:56 pm

Hookism I agree with some of that. I'm delighted at how we are performing on the field so its hard to complain.

I am very disappointed at how the Mclaughlin situation was handled and that we haven't retained Pedre, Faloon and Whitten. I'm delighted with Bowe returning and reasonably happy with Wilson coming back but I'm not 100% happy with our recruitment policy.

Over all the positives outway the negatives so I'll trust Logan and Humphreys and see where they take us.

Sunday is an acid test though to see were we are at as a team and club.
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Post by Standulstermen on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 1:56 pm

dragonbreath wrote:
Standulstermen wrote:I would be massively unhappy from an Irish perspective if Laulala plays 12 as that would mean hanrahan is 3rd choice (unless he gets gametime at 10 possibly?)

From an opposition point of view I would be delighted to see Laulala at 12 as I don't think he would break the line all that much close in and I don't think he has the passing range to help earls


Yeh hes useless that Laulala, I wouldn't play him at all if were you Whistle

Are you on school holidays. Grow up and read the thread idiot

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Post by Hookisms and Hyperbole on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:13 pm

Re: Rodders and Rory

There is something I cannot quite put my finger on that makes me feel uneasy about our transformation. I think you misunderstood my post Rory. As I said, some foreign players can be excellent additions to the squad not just on an individual basis but also practices that 'rubs' off on younger players. My issue is at what cost. Faloon for example was good when he was picked last season, but he has been off form. But is that enough of a reason just to discard him when we have keep McComish and Diack for example? I am so-so on Roger Wilson and can't help but feel he is an average player probably past his peak. The criticism re: Whitten is more about the IRFU than the Ulster branch. You might say he is nothing special, and you might be right, but he has been in better form this season than the 12s at Leinster and Munster. There is something fundamentally wrong about shifting him off to Exeter and Munster bringing in Downey, a player never more than average at best. I would also add a degree of mismanagement to Luke Marshall as well. Agreed on Spence. Pick his best position and play him there. The last thing we need is another Fitzgerald or Earls who are jacks of all trades and masters of none.

I saw a young Ulster team go to Leinster and put up a brave fight and get hammered in the end. But I look at that team and I don't see many players of genuine potential. Farrell for sure, Gaston perhaps, and Birch I think will be a big plus and probably a reason why Faloon is off west.

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Post by GunsGerms on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:23 pm

drsambo1928 wrote:Downey 12. A big hitter and a big man. Something Ireland hasn't had at 12 for awhile with the Clongowegian stump playing there for too long. It's a big call but I think he will be a big player for Munster next year. Ofcourse the man himself at 13, who else.

I think you mean Clongownian. McFadden also a Clongownian is probably his natural replacement but doesn't get much time at 12 cause Darce is ahead of him at 12 at Leinster.

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Post by red_stag on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:23 pm

Hookisms, I agree regarding Downey and Whitten.
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Post by red_stag on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:24 pm

Standulstermen wrote:
dragonbreath wrote:
Standulstermen wrote:I would be massively unhappy from an Irish perspective if Laulala plays 12 as that would mean hanrahan is 3rd choice (unless he gets gametime at 10 possibly?)

From an opposition point of view I would be delighted to see Laulala at 12 as I don't think he would break the line all that much close in and I don't think he has the passing range to help earls


Yeh hes useless that Laulala, I wouldn't play him at all if were you Whistle

Are you on school holidays. Grow up and read the thread idiot

Stand, he is clearly taking the pish - see smiley face.
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Post by rodders on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:28 pm

Hookisms and Hyperbole wrote:Re: Rodders and Rory

There is something I cannot quite put my finger on that makes me feel uneasy about our transformation. I think you misunderstood my post Rory. As I said, some foreign players can be excellent additions to the squad not just on an individual basis but also practices that 'rubs' off on younger players. My issue is at what cost. Faloon for example was good when he was picked last season, but he has been off form. But is that enough of a reason just to discard him when we have keep McComish and Diack for example? I am so-so on Roger Wilson and can't help but feel he is an average player probably past his peak. The criticism re: Whitten is more about the IRFU than the Ulster branch. You might say he is nothing special, and you might be right, but he has been in better form this season than the 12s at Leinster and Munster. There is something fundamentally wrong about shifting him off to Exeter and Munster bringing in Downey, a player never more than average at best. I would also add a degree of mismanagement to Luke Marshall as well. Agreed on Spence. Pick his best position and play him there. The last thing we need is another Fitzgerald or Earls who are jacks of all trades and masters of none.

I saw a young Ulster team go to Leinster and put up a brave fight and get hammered in the end. But I look at that team and I don't see many players of genuine potential. Farrell for sure, Gaston perhaps, and Birch I think will be a big plus and probably a reason why Faloon is off west.

Reluctanty, I agree with most of that Hook.....although I'm sure another Ulster poster will come along and pick it apart and I'll probably agree with them too..... Whistle



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Post by Hookisms and Hyperbole on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:35 pm

Rodders, the last thing I want is to be one of those fans that moans when we are a poor side and then moans when we are successful. That is not what this is about. Maybe I am different from some fans on here but if I had the choice between seeing Ireland be successful and Ulster be successful then I would choose the men in green every day of the week (and then complain that not enough Ulster players are selected!). I think Afoa, Muller, Wanneberg, Pienaar, and Terblanche have been great signings this season and obviously Pedre will not be here next season. However, what good does it do for Irish rugby when we could be lining out against Munster with a side containing Afoa, Muller, Wanneberg, Piennar, Terblanche and perhaps Diack as well? Obviously these players are setting a good example for young players, but do we really need so many foreign imports taking up huge wage chunks? If Payne and Danielli were fit would we be talking about 7 (as Terblanche would not be here had it not been for Payne's injury) non-Irish players starting? I do not find that acceptable and am glad the IRFU are taking another look at it. And for all the talk of how talented Spence, Jackson, Farrell and company are, isn't it likely that Whitten will play against Munster in our biggest match of the season despite not being deemed 'good enough' by the Ulster setup? That seems totally bizarre to me.

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Post by rodders on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:42 pm

Hook you are preaching to the converted here!

However there's a QF to win so I'd rather revisit this topic at the end of the season!

I would say that the current requitment policy is unsustainable and building a side around Pienaar, Muller, Afoa and Terblanche/Payne is a false economy.

At some stage we must put our faith in the Luke Marshalls, Nevin Spences, Paddy Jacksons etc. as they will what we are left with in 3 or 4 seasons.

I don't accept, like some, that Whitten and Faloon were surplus to requirements, I think they were fundimental to our squad and losing them for Wilson is a bad piece of business but hey ho...... we can't have everything.



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Post by Hookisms and Hyperbole on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 2:56 pm

I think Jared Payne has been brought in as a project player- a term i absolutely loath. Has any 'project player' from any of the provinces looked like getting near the national setup? Was Strauss a project player? I have no idea how Payne will do as we must only have seen him for a handful of minutes this season.

The IRFU and Kidney must do more to dictate to the provinces about selection. I would for example, tell Munster that Earls is to be henceforth selected only at 13, injuries permitting, if we are serious about him in that position. Lenister should be told we want D'Arcy to play less, or move BOD to 12, or whatever they want so that the national side is put in the best possible position.

I totally agree on Ulster selection though. I would love to see the new coaching setup decide that come hell or high water they will start the biggest games with a Pienaar, Jackson, Marshall, Spence/Cave partnership. George Hook is totally wrong in saying we can be successful at international level or provincial level. We can at both, but the provinces must cater to the national side. I don't want Ulster to become a side that tries to buy success like the Ospreys and the Blues. Look at where they are right now in terms of finance.

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Post by Sin é on Wed 04 Apr 2012, 3:09 pm

Sorry to interupt the Ulstermen here: Hug

Backs coach Kiss hints O'Driscoll will have to win 13 shirt back from Earls

By Des Berry

Monday April 02 2012

IRELAND'S backs coach Les Kiss has given the strongest indication yet that Brian O'Driscoll might not be an automatic starter for Ireland against the All Blacks for the three-Test series in June.

He was quick to back the skills of the incumbent 13 Keith Earls following Leinster's defeat of Munster in the PRO12 League on Saturday evening.

"Keith in the past has come under a bit of fire for certain parts of his game but he had a fantastic campaign for us (in the Six Nations) at 13. He was exceptional," said Kiss, on Setanta Sport's iTalkSport yesterday. "He missed the first game but played the rest and was very good. Defensively, last night, I thought Earls had an exceptional game. He didn't have many opportunities with the ball in hand."

Of course, there have been calls for Ireland captain O'Driscoll to move to inside centre to accommodate the wheels of Earls around the outside.

"I thought Drico just had a good, solid game - paced himself well. Not many opportunities but when he did something, it had some impact in the game.

"It's nice to see. It's 80 minutes for Brian, so things are looking good for him after the operation," added Kiss.

http://www.herald.ie/sport/rugby/backs-coach-kiss-hints-odriscoll-will-have-to-win-13-shirt-back-from-earls-3068206.html

By the way, the Herald is a sponsor of Leinster Rugby (just in case you think its some Munster fan paper)!

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