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15th Nov 2014

David Wallace: Ireland will beat Georgia with 25 points to spare

Our SportsJOE rugby columnist believes a mobile Irish pack and exciting backline will add up to a handsome win

David Wallace

Given my rugby roots, it is great to see so many Munster lads in the Ireland squad to face Georgia. They have been going well in the Champions Cup and pushing hard for Irish selection. Their performances were rewarded in Joe Schmidt’s team announcement.

While only two players have been retained in the starting fifteen that defeated South Africa in fantastic fashion, you look at the match-day 23 for Sunday and say ‘Wow, that’s a talented squad’. It is one for the future and one that must give Irish fans great hope. We have, I believe, 16 capped players unavailable through injury yet we are still able to make 13 changes.

All the players named on Friday are in with a genuine shot of World Cup inclusion. Some guys have stronger cases than others, but the Georgia game is the perfect platform for Joe Schmidt to see these lads in full-blooded action. The Six Nations is not a tournament that you want to be trying out players and partnerships.

The Irish backline is one of the most exciting selected in recent years – a back three of Felix Jones, Craig Gilroy and Simon Zebo with Gordon D’Arcy partnered by Darren Cave in the middle and the Leinster half backs Eoin Reddan and Ian Madigan.

Ian Keatley will be disappointed to miss out, but I hope he can get some decent game time. I am very excited to see Madigan in action, he has 11 caps but it is a rare start at No.10. Add to that a mobile pack and guys like the athletic Robin Copeland and Sean Cronin on the bench and the stage is set for a very attacking game-plan.

Ian Madigan 8/11/2014

We went out against Georgia with similar intentions in the 2007 World Cup but we failed to fire. The Georgians surprised us at just how physical and abrasive they were. That squad had 27 players earning their trade in France – most in the Top 14. That put us on the back-foot and we didn’t help by placing a lot of pressure on ourselves. It was the inverse to Ireland’s win over South Africa last week – where Schmidt’s team were clinical, we made countless mistakes.

It was almost like a virus sweeping through the team. Someone knocked on then someone else fumbled and soon everybody was affected. We played with a real looseness and then tried to force the issue rather than sticking to what had worked best for us in the past. They had a close call with the TMO but we got home in the end.

David Wallace 15/9/2007

Going back to a couple of the selection calls, Darren Cave gets another chance at outside centre. I’ve always rated him, ever since he came on the scene in 2007. He is a guy with blinding footwork and if Brian O’Driscoll had not been on the scene he would have had well over 30 caps. He is a big-game player and will relish pulling the green jersey on.

It will be interesting to see how Dominic Ryan and Tommy O’Donnell go, respectively, at blindside and openside. This may have the feel of a trial match for both guys and while Tommy, as the form player, may be ahead by a nose, Dominic has been in brilliant form this season.

I’m delighted to see Dave Foley partnering the bruising Mike McCarthy in the second row. Like Rhys Ruddock, he has bulked up a lot recently but retained that athleticism. I’ve had lunch with Dave a few times in the past and jealously looked on as he was forcing the extra dessert into him. He doesn’t put on weight easily but has worked on his physicality, his game and is a driven individual in the tight.

Georgia have been knocking on the door, in Europe, for a while and, today, still provide a lot of players to Top 14 outfits. Toulon have three of their forwards on the books. While it is not time to expand the Six Nations by one, I would be open to the idea of there being a relegation trap-door from the competition. If a country like Georgia were to win a Tier Two competition, they could play whatever team finished bottom of the Six Nations for the right to compete in the following year’s tournament.

The best way Georgia can force an issue like that is to push Ireland close. I believe the Irish team will be too strong and, with such an attacking backline, it will be a comfortable win. Schmidt will have the new guys under a lot of pressure to perform – nobody will want to get highlighted in that video review session. The winning margin will be large. I expected Ireland to win by at least 25 points.

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