Eddie The Assassin
So Eddie has acted. Are the changes merely rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic, or will they shore up the giant hole in Ireland's Rugby World Cup campaign?
If you were looking for a sacrificial lamb amongst the Irish team from the first two games, sticking a pin randomly in the teamsheet would probably have served your purpose just fine. But Peter Stringer pays the price for being the perpetrator of the most glaring, identifiable error, rather than the bulk of his teammates for their part in the astonishing malaise that has gripped the Irish team.
Eoin Reddan's elevation to the starting XV has met with much approval for the player's calibre (being the scrum-half on the current Heineken Cup champions is pedigree enough), but also no little dismay that the Wasps player has had virtually no prior test match experience. Reddan's selection raises serious alarm bells about Eddie O'Sullivan's preparations, and the suspicion arises that the coach is now implementing panic measures.
Only a short few days since he was considered the third best number nine in the squad, Reddan is now being called upon to instigate the forward momentum and pack management that has been virtually non-existent in the opening games. It's a bold move by Eddie; in poker parlance, the coach is 'all in'.
Andrew Trimble and Jerry Flannery are more straightforward changes, both bringing more explosiveness around the field than the men they replace, the under-par Denis Hickie and the injured Rory Best.
But it's the banishment of Geordan Murphy from the 22, replaced by the unheralded Gavin Duffy, that has caused the greatest consternation. Murphy, O'Sullivan claims, is paying the price for errors against the French in games seven and nineteen months ago. It hasn't required mind-reading skills to figure that O'Sullivan does not trust Murphy, his preference for Girvan Dempsey long being used as evidence for the 'Steady Eddie' characterisation of the coach.
But you could forgive O'Sullivan having Murphy on the bench with Dempsey at 15, the thinking being that, were a game-breaking, or -saving intervention required, at least Murphy's unpredictable talents could be drafted in. Now, if we require a dash of magic, we can replace the dependable Dempsey with the, er, also dependable Duffy. Hmmm.
Still, there it is; the bloodletting has occured. The changes will have energised the stiffs outside the regular 22 at least, with three of their tackle-bag carrying number having been asked to saddle up.
Whether Eddie's bold moves do the same for the rest of the underperforming squad remains to be seen.