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The Jenga Theory: Who Is Ireland's Most Important Jenga Piece?

The Jenga Theory: Who Is Ireland's Most Important Jenga Piece?
By Conor O'Leary
Introducing The Jenga Theory

Let me introduce the "Jenga Theory". Coined by NFL.com's Dave Dameshek, it is a fantastic phrase that perfectly illustrates something so succinctly.

The Jenga Theory

The Jenga theory refers to - just like in a game of Jenga where you can take pieces out and the structure may wobble but not fall - the most important part of Jenga is not to take out the key piece that causes the total collapse of the building. In sporting terms, think of the pieces as individual players. Taking a piece out equates to an injury, or a transfer or retirement. Something that means that that player isn't on the field any more. The Jenga theory dictates that most teams can survive a few injuries without a cataclysmic collapse. But the wrong injury and a team's fortunes go out the window.

The Jenga theory term was coined in regards to NFL rosters, but there is no reason why it couldn't be applied to any sport. I mean, where would Arsenal be this season without Alexis Sanchez, or look how Liverpool are doing without Luis Suarez. Often, a team's "jenga piece" wouldn't be the best players, it could be the unsung hero in the side that keeps things together. Southampton were praised last season after the performances of Adam Lallana, Dejan Lovren and Luke Shaw. After their departures amongst others, they were tipped to be relegated this season, but have done even better. Their jenga piece is likely to be Morgan Schneiderlin, who Southampton were determined to keep while letting others go.


This phenomenon is even more pronounced in rugby. It's easy to say that it's a team's outhalf as they are usually the key part of any rugby team. It's rare that you have a good team without a good outhalf. Having said that, Dan Carter has been one of the best players in the world for the last number of years, yet during his recent injuries, New Zealand have recorded a grand total of one defeat in two years with the likes of Beauden Barrett, Aaron Cruden and Colin Slade at the helm.

It would have been easy to say that before Cian Healy and Sean O'Brien were ruled out of the November series, either or both of them could have been counted as a Jenga piece, but Ireland didn't do too badly. Looking through the squad, there seems to be a good bit of depth all over, with Sean Cronin and Jack McGrath covering Best and Healy in the front row; Chris Henry and Rhys Ruddock in the back row; Eoin Reddan, Andrew Trimble, and Stuart Olding among the backs cover.

There is a train of thought that while Ireland used to be a badly built structure, according to the Jenga theory. They may only have one, two or at a stretch three. We've already seen in the 6 Nations in 2012 what would happen if Sexton gets injured, while in the 6 Nations the year before - Mike Ross underlined his importance to Irish fortunes when the English scrum made us look amateurish. See below for that if you can bear it.



The Jenga theory still applies to the provinces. You'd fear what happened to Connacht without Kieran Marmion, or Munster without Paul O'Connell. Ulster are already finding life without Ruan Pienaar very difficult when they play in Europe; while the king of all Irish provincial jenga pieces left Leinster over a season ago. You could put the Garryowen Under 8s out with Isa Nacewa and he could have lead them to a victory.

So I'm starting a mission. First, a jenga theory is a brilliant piece of sports terminology, get using it. Second, we need to find Ireland's greatest Jenga piece, in any sport. Is it James McCarthy, or Mike Ross, or Ian Poulter for the Ryder Cup? Leave us a comment on our facebook page and tweet us at @ballsdotie with your suggestions, #FindIrelandsJengaPiece and spread the Jenga theory.

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