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'Ireland are not set up for a petit général' | Keith Wood

Ciaran Bradley
Ciaran Bradley

21:30 20 Jan 2021


Keith Wood believes that Ireland would struggle to accommodate a petit général-type at nine.

Wood joined Wednesday Night Rugby on the back of comments by Andy Dunne that Ireland should inject a playmaking element in Conor Murray's position.

Keith Wood on Ireland

The former Ireland captain disagrees.

"Firstly, slowing down the ball I hate. The idea that you want to slow things down.

"We have been guilty of doing that for a few years, and then we started with this caterpillar thing when you have all the guys back before you box kick. That is rubbish and shouldn't be in the game.

"If you slow things down, in my view, the referee should say 'use it or lose it' - which is beginning to happen now anyway. That is a good thing.

Believing that the idea of slowing the game down any further is 'not great', Wood pinpointed law changes as being another issue.

"The laws have changed so that you want to be in a better position with better players in the right places on the field before you move the ball. To me, that sounds counter-intuitive to a fast-moving game.

"You can get isolated very quickly and someone can just win that ball. That wouldn't have happened before. If you were able to clear out with your feet, he would never be in that position."

Changes

"Ireland under Joe Schmidt, and Munster under Johann van Graan, tend to kick the ball away a lot and have a strong defence.

"If some of the players that you have are not up to scratch, you are better off slowing it down.

"But we got into the idea that unless everything was 100% perfect we slowed it down."

So where does this leave Ireland and a potential petit général at nine - and could it be John Cooney?

"Guys who have leadership will lead. [Andy] mentioned Eoin Reddan; he was one of the smartest guys that played the game.

"He got some caps and not more, because his style was not fast and slick enough - but he was a thinking nine."

"There is a big difference between a 'thinking' nine and an 'all-action' nine.

"I think Cooney played really well at the end of 2018-19, and didn't get a chance. I think he should have, and should have been coming off the bench so we get to see him.

"I think Conor Murray has got better from where he was at, and I don't know that Cooney is playing as well as he was."

Wood cited a change in style from his playing days to accommodate the maverick ability of Brian O'Driscoll, but believes that Irish rugby needs a change in thinking to see a stylish nine.

"We didn't go to the idea of having a nine that runs the play; that isn't something fits in Irish rugby because it just hasn't.

"It fits into French rugby because it has always been the case but there has always been huge depth to the way the French backs play. We don't play that style - it is a philosophy.

"I wouldn't go down that route; it is a lovely conceptual conversation, but you would need a lot of players to change how they have played for years to go and do it."

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